Engaging Minds, Transforming Lives

King Creativity at Southwestern

What Mama Taught Me: Exploring Cultural Values Taught by Black Mothers and How Those Values Affect Their Daughter’s Interpretations of Mother/Daughter Relationships Presented in the Media

by Terrenee Knight, Mary-Louisa Berges, Leigh-Anna Price, Kendal George, Latoya Alexander

Mothers and daughters were daughters and mothers not so long ago.
We give and take and take and give along time’s endless row.
Love is passed and love received to be passed on again:
A precious heirloom twice, twice blessed, A spiritual cardigan.
I’ll put it on and treasure it, The me I have received,
And when the roles Reverse again, I’ll have what I most need.
So may our love Go on and on, A hundred thousand years;
Mothers and daughters, Daughters and mothers, Through joys and other tears.

—Nicholas Gordon

The purpose of this study was to explore the culturally constructed values that black mothers teach their daughters and how those values affect their daughters’ interpretations of black mother/daughter relationships in the media. Though there are numerous books that present the contributions of black mothers in the black community, this topic lacked a theoretical cultural framework because it has been infrequently researched. This lack of research prompted us to bring to the forefront a topic that not only appealed to us as researchers, but would also appeal to the black mother/daughter community in the United States. As a framework, we reviewed online and journal articles, poetry, television programs and movies.

The literature review gave us insight to the respect that black mothers are given by their daughters. For instance, poems such as ‘Mother’ by Nikki Giovanni and those found in the book, “Songs of a Sistermom” by Charisse Carney-Nunes are examples of works that celebrate the greatness of black mothers. Also, the literature provided evidence of black daughters’ strong reliance on the teachings of their mothers. As well, the television programs and movies reviewed also increased our desire to further investigate the affects of the values taught by black mothers and how they play a role in media interpretation. Based upon our, the researchers, common upbringings we all yielded the same interpretations. for example, as we reviewed the movie “Soul Food,” we all responded negatively to acts that showed a lack of respect for family. The universality of our own personal and collective interpretations brought us to believe that the possibility of all black daughters sharing common values based upon the teachings of their mothers could be substantiated.

The sample studied consisted of 15 black mothers and 15 black daughters who were identified using references from black faculty, students and staff at Southwestern University. Participants were interviewed using an interview protocol and surveys. From the data gathered and analyzed, we found that two overarching themes emerged that reflected the values that affected daughter’s interpretations of mother/daughter relationships presented in the media. These themes were: (a) self respect and self discipline, and (b) parental discipline.