“When Quaker Oats announced the discontinuation of the ‘Aunt Jemima’ brand in 2020 amidst the Black Lives Matter movement, it stirred significant controversy. Just a day after the decision was made public, a great-grandson of ‘Aunt Jemima,’ Larnell Evans Sr., expressed strong objection, asserting that the move would contribute to the erasure of black history and the struggles endured by his family.
Describing it as an injustice, Evans, a Marine Corps veteran, criticized the company for attempting to distance itself from its historical connection to slavery after profiting from it for many years. He emphasized, ‘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 announced the permanent withdrawal of the brand, featuring an emblem depicting a black lady named Nancy Green, a former enslaved individual. While Green was born into slavery, Quaker Oats referred to her as a ‘storyteller, cook, and missionary worker.’ The brand name ‘Aunt Jemima’ was initially associated with Anna Short Harrington, who served pancakes at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. After Harrington’s passing in 1923, Larnell Evans Sr. claims Quaker Oats designated her as ‘Aunt Jemima,’ with his great-grandmother, Anna Short Harrington, assuming the role in 1935.
Evans lamented, ‘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?’
Expressing frustration that the brand capitalized on a racial stereotype before abruptly distancing itself, Evans questioned the ethics of such actions, particularly given Quaker Oats’ plans to remove the name. He raised concerns about the historical impact of such characters, highlighting the profits made by corporations without adequate compensation. ‘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?'”
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