First published in 1971, ‘‘Blues Ain’t No Mockin Bird’’ was included the following year in Toni Cade Bambara’s highly acclaimed first collection of short stories, Gorilla, My Love. Like most of Bambara’s stories, ‘‘Blues Ain’t No Mockin Bird’’ features strong African-American female characters and reflects social and political issues of particular concern to the contemporary African-American community. In the story, the young female narrator is playing with her neighbors and cousin at her grandmother’s house. Two white filmmakers, shooting a film ‘‘about food stamps’’ for the county, lurk near their yard. The narrator’s grandmother asks them to leave: not heeding her request, they simply move farther away. When Granddaddy Cain returns from hunting a chicken hawk, he takes the camera from the men and smashes it. Cathy, the distant cousin of the narrator, displays a precocious ability to interpret other people’s actions and words as well as an interest in storytelling and writing. Her intelligence and ambition echo Bambara’s own accomplishments as well as the larger African-American storytelling tradition.
Children are playing in a front yard. The twin boys from next door, Tyrone and Terry, are on the tire swing, while the narrator and her cousin, Cathy, jump and dance on a frozen puddle. The narrator’s grandmother is on the back porch, ladling rum over the Christmas cakes she has baked. Near the house, in a meadow, are two men who have been there all morning shooting film with their movie camera; they claim they are from the county and are making a film that has to do with food stamps. Granny has asked them to get off the property and has protested their filming, but although they have moved father away they have continued to film.
Granddaddy Cain returns home from the woods where he has shot a chicken hawk. The two filmmakers film his approach. Granny asks him to get the men out of her flower bed.
Granddaddy Cain holds out his hand for the camera. Without arguing, the men give it to him. They explain they are filming for the county. One of the man asks for the camera back, using the word ‘‘please.’’ Granddaddy smashes the camera. The camera man gathers up the pieces. Granddaddy tells the men that he and Granny own this place and they are standing in her flower bed. The men back away.