By | Rachel Brooks
Staff | Telegraph Local
Above, historic graphic of the original Aunt Jemima branding. The Aunt Jemima pancake recipe was inspired by famous Chicago World’s Fair cook and former slave Nancy Green. Image a clipping from the Evening Star newspaper, 1923, Public Domain.
Aunt Jemima is set to change its name according to the Quaker Oats company. The Aunt Jemima character will likewise no longer appear on packaging by the fourth quarter of 2021. The signature maple syrup and pancake batter brand of Quaker moves to change its name amid civil rights protests and inflamed race relations. This was reported on June 17 by NBC News.
Quaker stated that the Aunt Jemima logo and brand was “based on a racial stereotype.” Aunt Jemima brand has been accused of perpetuating racial stereotypes in the past, citing Today. The Aunt Jemima character likeness has changed over the years to reflect the status of civil rights in the era the brand appears. The brand is 130 years old. It has been called a “retrograde image of Black womanhood on store shelves,” by Riche Richardson, an associate professor of African American literature in Africana Studies and Research Center at Cornell University. Richardson was quoted by Today.
The story of “Aunt Jemima” begins in Civil War-era Mount Sterling, Kentucky. The “Aunt Jemima” character was inspired by Nancy Green, citing the Courier Journal. Green herself has not been pictured for years, but was rather replaced with the character. Green was born a slave in 1834. She lived in Mount Sterling during the Civil War. Afterward, she relocated to Chicago, Illinois. She was a cook for Judge Charles Walker. Walker recommended that she become a representative cook for R.T. Davis Milling Company’s pancake mix. Courier Journal was citing the book by Marily Kern-Foxworth entitled “Blacks in Advertising, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.”
Nancy Green’s representative pancake mix grew in fame after she was presented in the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. She was then 59-years-old. Mrs. Green died in 1923 at the age of 89.
NBC News reports that the Quaker Oats company itself has stated Nancy Green was the inspiration for the Aunt Jemima brand. The first rendering of the Aunt Jemima character appeared in 1889. The Aunt Jemima brand was purchased by Quaker Oats company in 1926, further citing the Courier Journal.
“Aunt Jemima” has since been portrayed by Anna Harrington and later, in 1989, the image was revamped again in an effort to remove racial stereotypes from its appearance. The original models were Green and Harrington. A lawsuit from a pair of men claiming to have descended from Harrington came to courts in 2014. The pair accused the Quaker Oats Company and parent company PepsiCo of exploiting both of the “Aunt Jemima” brand models. The $2million dollar lawsuit was dismissed in 2015, further citing Courier Journal.
A new brand name has not yet been announced for the “Aunt Jemima” pancake and syrup line. Kristin Kroepfl, the vice president and chief marketing officer to Quaker Foods of North America, issued a statement to USA TODAY regarding the company’s forward moving options.
“We will continue the conversation by gathering diverse perspectives from both our organization and the Black community to further evolve the brand,”said Kroepfl, as she was quoted by USA TODAY.