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PAPERBACKS

November 20, 1994|CHARLES SOLOMON

CERAMIC UNCLES & CELLULOID MAMMIES: Black Images and Their Influence on Culture by Patricia A. Turner (Anchor: $12.95; 238 pp., illustrated, paperback original) and MAMMY AND UNCLE MOSE: Black Collectibles and American Stereotyping by Kenneth W. Goings (Indiana University Press: $22.50; 123 pp., illustrated, paperback original). The illustrations in Goings' book are taken from his personal collection of outrageous product labels, toys, postcards and bric-a-brac. The jokes about children eating watermelon and fleeing alligators, fractured English and chicken stealing form a veritable rogue's gallery of racist imagery. The text, which amounts to little more than a capsule history of interracial relations in America, lacks the punch of the visuals. Turner discusses images in the popular media that parallel what she calls "contemptible collectibles." Her analyses of the shifting interpretations of the characters in Harriet Beecher Stowe's "Uncle Tom's Cabin" and the portrayals of African-Americans in prime-time TV shows are carefully documented and well-argued. But other essays seem mis-focused: She compares Roger Rabbit to Lincoln Perry's Stepin Fetchit character, but ignores more relevant depictions of blacks in cartoons and comic strips. Strangest of all is her contention that the absurd elephant jokes of the '60s were a way for whites to "articulate their anti-black prejudices and fears in a socially acceptable fashion."

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