Quaker Oats caused quite the stir last week when it announced it would be retiring its “Aunt Jemima” brand in light of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Yet just one day after said announcement, a great-grandson of “Aunt Jemima” protested the decision, stating the family’s belief that the move would stand only to erase black history and suffering.
“This is an injustice for me and my family. This is part of my history.”
“The racism they talk about, using images from slavery, that comes from the other side — white people. This company profits off images of our slavery. And their answer is to erase my great-grandmother’s history. A black female. … It hurts.”
Quaker Oats confirmed the brand, whose logo features a formerly enslaved black woman named Nancy Green, would be retired for good. Quaker described Green as a “storyteller, cook, and missionary worker,” but omitted the fact that she was born into slavery.
Originally, Green was hired to serve pancakes at the Chicago’s World’s Fair in 1893, the first time the “Aunt Jemima” brand name was used. After her death, in 1923, Anna Short Harrington – who Larnell Evans Sr. claims was his great-grandmother – stepped into the role in 1935, after a Quaker Oats representative saw her serving pancakes at the New York State Fair and decided to make her “Aunt Jemima”.
Her great grandson said:
“She worked for that Quaker Oats for 20 years. She traveled all the way around the United States and Canada making pancakes as Aunt Jemima for them.
“This woman served all those people, and it was after slavery. She worked as Aunt Jemima. That was her job. … How do you think I feel as a black man sitting here telling you about my family history they’re trying to erase?”
Now that Quaker Oats is aiming to retire the brand, her great grandson is unhappy that the corporation has been able to profit off of a racial stereotype before simply moving on when it became convenient.
“How many white people were raised looking at characters like Aunt Jemima at breakfast every morning? How many white corporations made all the profits, and didn’t give us a dime?” said Evans.
“They’re just going to erase history like it didn’t happen? … They’re not going to give us nothing? What gives them the right?”