In honor of Black History Month 2017, my following three entries will about stories where African Americans are the main characters. My final entry will be about the pleasure of teaching at Morgan State University, an HBCU.
The Help is the story of African-American maids working with white children in segregated Jackson, Mississippi. It was published in 2009. They endure all the humiliation of Jim Crow laws while leaving their own children to care for those of rich white families.
Ms. Skeeter wants change and after much convincing, gathers the maids’ stories and publishes them using pseudonyms. What follows is mayhem as all the well-to-do women in town try to figure out whose maid said what about them.
The most heart-breaking character is Aibileen and her relationship with the toddler she takes care of, Mae Mobley. Distressed by how her mother treats her, she is constantly telling Mae Mobley, “You is smart, you is kind, you is important” but Aibileen can’t help but wonder if Mae Mobley is destined to turn out just like her mother.
The novel was made into a film in 2011. Octavia Spencer won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress and the film was nominated for many other awards.
The novel earned many awards, including a place on the New York Times Bestseller List.
I read the novel in the course of a few days during last year’s blizzard. I saw the movie some time later and felt that it was true to the novel.