Beth Camp Historical Fiction

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Celebrating Women's History: Moms Mabley

I saw Moms Mabley for the first time last night on a documentary produced by Whoopi Goldberg. I don't know how I missed Moms back in the 1960s when she became popular. Maybe because I lived in Seattle, where one black kid was in our high school of over 400. But I never knew her in the 1970s either.
Moms Mabley (Wikipedia)

She comes on stage, shuffling, a baggy hat pulled low, frumpy old lady clothes that don't match in any way. If she is wearing her teeth, she takes them out, saying, "Now, that's better." Her big smile wins everyone over.

Her wise-cracking, authentic, heart-tugging humor turns to simply expressed, laser sharp critiques of racism. And people listen. 

In 1969, in her disarming way, she tells an obviously uncomfortable Merv Griffin, that she has a new nickname. Trigger. Then, after a beat, she adds, "At least, I think they was saying Trigger."

Her popularity led her to Carnegie Hall and the White House, where she visited Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. The Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964, amended and approved by President Johnson on April 11, 1968.  Before that, John F. Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963, and Martin Luther King was assassinated on April 4, 1968.

This clip from youtube.com shows Sammy Davis, Jr. introducing Moms to sing "Abraham, Martin, and John."



Read a little more about Moms on Wikipedia.
More about Whoopi Goldberg's documentary on The New York Times.