north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program



Marker Text:

Often referred to as “the funniest woman in the world,” Jackie “Moms” Mabley revolutionized entertainment as one of the founders of stand-up comedy in the United States. Born Loretta Mary Aiken in Brevard in 1894, she often took inspiration from her hometown,
referring to it as “the greatest place on Earth.” At the encouragement of her grandmother, she left home in her teens and joined a Black vaudeville troop with her then stage name of Jackie Mabley.

Mabley was a trailblazer, whose career as the first female African American stand-up comedian spanned six decades. Moms appealed to a broad audience with her captivating storytelling and challenged societal norms with her approachable and clever social satire. She used her non-threatening stage persona to discuss topics that other comics at the time wouldn’t – politics, racism, sexism, agism, and female sexuality.

When she arrived in New York in 1923, she performed at major venues and had a residency at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, where she was the first woman to headline as a solo-act and was one of the highest-paid performers.

In the 1960s she became known to a wider audience, recording more than twenty comedy albums, performing at larger “white” venues, and appearing in film and on popular television shows. In 1962, she made history as the first Black female to perform at Carnegie Hall. She found herself at the forefront of political change as a female and Black comedian with an outlet in main-stream media.

When she stepped out of the spotlight, she served as a mentor and mother-figure to young comedians, regardless of race or gender. She inspired and continues to inspire countless performers. Mabley combatted social stereotypes and exposed the marginalization of African Americans and women in society. Her comedy helped lay the foundation for entertainment as social and political commentary, all while leaving audience members doubled over in laughter.

“Behind the Laughter of Jackie (Moms) Mabley.” Ebony Magazine, August 1962, pp. 88-91.
“Comedienne Moms Mabley.” Jet Magazine, June 8, 1961, pp. 60-61.
“Moms Mabley Didn’t Die; She Just Chuckled Away,” Jet Magazine, June 12, 1975, pp. 58-61.
Mark Jacobson,. “Amazing Moms,” New York Magazine, October 14, 1974, pp. 46-49.
Elsie A. Williams, The Humor of Jackie Moms Mabley: An African American Comedic Tradition, 1995.
Daryl Cumber Dance, ed., Honey, Hush! An Anthology of African American Womens’ Humor, 1998.
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north carolina highway historical marker program

© 2008 North Carolina Office of Archives & History — Department of Cultural Resources