Dignity in Struggle

Florida Evans lives in the projects, yet sounds as if she's reciting Shakespeare.

Captions by Natalie Hopkinson

African Royal

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In Coming to America, Her Majesty, Queen Aoleon of Zamunda, oozes power and checks the husband when necessary: "Put a sock in it, Joffe; the boy's in love!"

Great Expectations

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Who holds down a law-firm job and has five kids? Clair Huxtable, that's who. Bows.

Pitchwoman

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Aunt Jemima, the faithful slave who supposedly made great pancakes, was pure fiction — played by the actress Nancy Green, says Micki McElya in Clinging to Mammy. Myth still sells a lot of pancakes.

Cosmopolitan Mama

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Generations before Angelina Jolie adopted her rainbow tribe, there was Josephine Baker.

Tiger Mom

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Until you've been jailed for trying to get your children into a better school, as Kelley Williams-Bolar has, you don't deserve the title.

Single Lady

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The late-1960s TV series Julia, about a Vietnam War widow, was originally supposed to be called Mama's Man. Depictions of black-women-led households have gone downhill ever since.

No Doubt

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In playing a mom willing to look the other way at impropriety toward her son, Viola Davis did the impossible in Doubt: She stole the scene from Meryl Streep cold.

The Crusader

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Marian Wright Edelman won't rest until all children have opportunities.

Earth Mama

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Erykah Badu has three children by three different hip-hop all-star fathers. This musician defies convention and lives her art.

First Grandmother

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Marian Robinson ventures out in D.C. She does her own laundry. When strangers ask if she's President Obama's mother-in-law, she just denies it. Love.

Mom-in-Chief

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Michelle Obama can do the Dougie, too. Enough said.