In the wake of Quaker Oats announcement on Jun. 18 to retire the company’s pancake brand “Aunt Jemima” for portraying racial stereotypes, several descendants of women who played “Aunt Jemima” are speaking out against the decision. They say the decision to rebrand the line is an attempt to erase history.
The great-grandson of a former face for the brand, Larnell Evans Sr. believes Quaker Oats has done a great injustice to his family. “This is an injustice for me and my family. This is part of my history, sir,” Evans said. “The racism they talk about, using images from slavery, that comes from the other side — white people.”
Evans’ great-grandmother — the late Anna Short Harrington — succeeded Nancy Green, a former enslaved woman, as the face of the Aunt Jemima brand in the early 1920s. According to the family, she worked for Quaker Oats for 20 years; traveling the country, plus Canada, making pancakes as Aunt Jemima.
“This company profits off images of our slavery. And their answer is to erase my great-grandmother’s history. A Black female,” Evans added. “It hurts.”
He’s not the only descendant that finds this decision intolerable. Vera Harris says her family is proud that her second cousin, Lillian Richard was scouted to be a representative of the brand in 1925.
“She made an honest living out of it for a number of years. She toured around Texas,” Harris said, noting there “wasn’t a lot of jobs, especially for black women back in that time.”
Both families urge Quaker Oats to reconsider this move. Harris said, “We would ask that you reconsider just wiping all that (history) away. I wish we would take a breath and not just get rid of everything, because good or bad, it is our history. Removing that wipes away a part of me — a part of each of us.”
The news of the change by Quaker Oats has led to other brands, including Uncle Ben’s Rice, to review changing their names.