Black mermaids have been part of mythology for a long time

Why the latest “Little Mermaid,” played by Halle Bailey, is just one in a long line of Black mermaids.

This image released by Disney shows Halle Bailey as Ariel in "The Little Mermaid." (Disney via AP) (Photo courtesy of Disney., © 2022 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

When Halle Bailey was cast in the live-action remake of “The Little Mermaid,” some critics blasted the decision, proclaiming Princess Ariel could not possibly be Black.

But one professor who studies the mythology of mermaids and the present-day communities that portray them says that view couldn’t be further from the truth. Yes, mermaids are mythological creatures, but their African origins are real according to Jalondra Davis, an assistant professor of English at the University of California, Riverside. And some mermaids are Black.

Part of Davis’ research situates the origin of Black mermaids during the Middle Passage, a time period where Africans were enslaved and violently transported across the ocean to North America and the Caribbean. A common motif of mermaid legends is that enslaved people who went overboard transformed into water creatures along with their descendants.

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