When Quaker Oats announced the discontinuation of their “Aunt Jemima” brand in response to the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020, it sparked a significant controversy.
However, just one day after the decision was made public, a great-grandson of “Aunt Jemima” voiced his objection, expressing his belief that this move would contribute to the erasure of black history and the suffering endured by his family.
Larnell Evans Sr., a Marine Corps veteran, stated, “This feels like an injustice to me and my family. This brand is a part of my history. After profiting from the legacy of slavery for many years, the company is now accused of attempting to erase it.”
Evans emphasized that the racism associated with the use of images from slavery originates from the other side, white people, and the company profits from these images. He criticized their response as an attempt to erase the history of his great-grandmother, a black woman, stating, “It hurts.”
Quaker Oats confirmed that the brand, featuring an image of a black woman who was once an enslaved individual named Nancy Green, would be permanently retired. However, sources indicate that Green was born into slavery, but Quaker Oats merely described her as a “storyteller, cook, and missionary worker.”
The “Aunt Jemima” brand name was first used when Green was hired to serve pancakes at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. Subsequently, a Quaker Oats representative saw Anna Short Harrington serving pancakes at the New York State Fair and decided to name her “Aunt Jemima” following her passing in 1923. Larnell Evans Sr. claims that Anna Short Harrington was his great-grandmother and assumed the role in 1935.
Evans explained, “She worked for Quaker Oats for 20 years. She traveled throughout 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, sharing my family history that they’re trying to erase?”
Evans is deeply troubled that the company was able to profit from a racial stereotype and then swiftly discontinue it when it became convenient, especially as Quaker Oats plans to remove the name. He questioned the fact that many white people were raised with characters like Aunt Jemima on their breakfast tables, and yet, these corporations didn’t provide any compensation.
He asked, “They’re just going to erase history like it didn’t happen?… They’re not going to give us anything? What gives them the right?”
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