Saint Louis University

In celebration of Black History Month 2013, the African American Studies program will host the third installment of faculty and student research from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 19, in room 218 of McGannon Hall.

Katrina Thompson, Ph.D., assistant professor of history and African-American studies, will present "Wench, Skank and Madea: Male Caricaturization of Black Womanhood."


The minstrel men of the nineteenth century and the black comedians of present day, both used gender and racial disguises for more than to entertain; these cultural performers were used to express anxieties, fear, hatred and desires towards black women. The grotesque caricaturization of black womanhood within these performances did not represent a desire to show female power but, instead it takes power back.

From the 1970s with Flip Wilson's character of Geraldine, the 1990s with Martin Lawrence character of Sheneneh and until today with Tyler Perry's, Madea, there is a trend within the African American community of black men performing in female garb to elicit laughter; however this humor often is extracted through the misogynistic, grotesque depiction of black womanhood, similar to the 19th century wench character. Although, these comedic displays cannot be painted with broad strokes, there are differences between the female characterizations, however there is a theme of grotesque black womanhood that emerged in the minstrel show and re-emerged in black comedy that needs to be further explored.