This is a brief introduction on the definition of the New Black woman which developed during the Harlem Renainassance as the movement for the new Negro occurred.
Before we can touch on the New Black woman we must examine and discuss the old female Negro. The most common stereo type of the Black woman during the civil war was the mammy. To many the figure of the mammy referred to a large, strongly built black woman, who catered to the needs of the white master and his family. She knew instinctively how to care for the white children; tending to every hurt, celebrating every achievement. She provides a high level of nurturing maternal care that the main house required. This role of mammy was established to provide ease to the white southern woman, who literally did nothing but seat pretty.
Another well known stereotypical role of the black woman was the Jezebel. Jezebel was an often an attractive young black woman who was seen as morally loose as well as sexually inappropriate. This was a black tempest that lured innocent unknowingly white men into sexual activities. This role was more fictional than based on reality. It was the means by which the white community of the times justified the immoral sexual treatment of the beautiful young black female slaves. It is easy to recognize the purpose of the controlling white population in the establishment of these roles as well as its emphasizing it so that the recipient had no control or power to change it.
Moving forward in time to the establishment of the New Negro during the Harlem Renaissance we can clearly see an active role of the black woman as well as the control and power she reclaims. It is at this point in time that the black woman not only aided in defining the New Negro; but in turn created the new black woman. The New Black woman saw the importance of preserving and learning from the past; while working in the present to improve the future of the black community as a whole. Whereas the new black man did not want to recall the past as much as focus his energies on catching up with the white man. His belief was that by being economically equal to the white man his position within society would be changed. His direction and focus was on the moment fighting old stereo typical concepts of the black man while competing with the white man within the white world. The black man had a strong drive and dream they just lacked clear direction and guidance to obtain it.
During this time of discovery we observe the work of many brilliant and talent black female writers that offered direction, option and food for thought. Margarita Washington felt that the black woman should focus on establishing the home structure while Pauline Hopkins felt that the black woman should concentrate on individual achievements and freedoms. Where as Marita Bonner wrote to make black woman aware of social issues such as outdated gender roles and segregation. Fauset wrote of the past giving her black characters a reality that the reader could connection with reinforced through visual illustration.
The New Black woman was a product of the institutional education; seeing herself having to battle more in terms of gender than color/race. The New Black woman was challenged from within her own culture and community by those who could not understand the need to move forward and questioned her objectives. The need for a black woman to obtain formal education or training in preparation for something other that being a wife or mother as feared. The concept of a black woman marketable employment would create a level of independence that would/could remove the black man’s control over her.
Historically we can trace the battles and challenges faced by the black community in defining itself as either man, woman or community. Their struggles in defining themselves as a group was often complicated by the individual needs of gender role definitions.