Earlier this week, Quaker Oats announced that they will be rebranding and removing the name and imagery of their Aunt Jemima brand goods as to apparently not perpetuate “racial stereotypes.”
“We recognize Aunt Jemima’s origins are based on a racial stereotype,” said a statement from Kristin Kroepfl, Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of Quaker Foods North America. “While work has been done over the years to update the brand in a manner intended to be appropriate and respectful, we realize those changes are not enough.”
“We acknowledge the brand has not progressed enough to appropriately reflect the confidence, warmth and dignity that we would like it to stand for today,” Kroepfl added. “We are starting by removing the image and changing the name. We will continue the conversation by gathering diverse perspectives from both our organization and the Black community to further evolve the brand and make it one everyone can be proud to have in their pantry.”
Though the move was apparently made by Quaker Oats to be racially sensitive, Larnell Evans Sr., a great-grandson of “Aunt Jemima,” is not pleased at all with the erasure of his great-grandmother’s legacy.
“This is an injustice for me and my family,” Evans, 66, told Patch reporter Mark Konkol. “This is part of my history, sir. 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.”
According to Patch, Evans’ now-deceased great-grandmother Anna Short Harrington took over for Nancy Green, the first “Aunt Jemima,” following Green’s death in 1923.
Harrington, a cook at the Kappa Sigma fraternity house in Syracuse, “was discovered by a Quaker Oats representative while serving up her pancakes, a favorite of local frat boys, at the New York State Fair in 1935,” the report outlined. “Quaker Oats used Harrington’s likeness on products and advertising, and it sent her around the country to serve flapjacks dressed as ‘Aunt Jemima.’ The gig made her a national celebrity.”
Evans and a nephew of Harrington’s filed a lawsuit against Quaker Oats in 2014, seeking $3 billion from the company for not paying royalties to descendants of Harrington’s. The suit, however, was dismissed by a federal judge in Chicago with prejudice.
“She worked for that Quaker Oats for 20 years,” Evans said, according to Patch. “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?”
“How many white people were raised looking at characters like Aunt Jemima at breakfast every morning?” the Marine Corps veteran posed. “How many white corporations made all them profits, and didn’t give us a dime? I think they should have to look at it. They can’t just wipe it out while we still suffer.”
“After making all that money —and now’s the time when black people are saying we want restitution for slavery — they’re just going to erase history like it didn’t happen?” Evans added, “They’re not going to give us nothing? What gives them the right?”
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