A great-grandson of a black woman who once played the character of “Aunt Jemima” is angry that Quaker Oats is planning to cancel the brand.
“This is an injustice for me and my family. This is part of my history, sir,” Larnell Evans Sr., 66, of North Carolina, told Patch.
“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,” he added.
On Wednesday, the company announced that it was abandoning its efforts to modernize the iconic brand, which has gone through multiple changes in its logo, and would scrap it instead.
“As we work to make progress toward racial equality through several initiatives, we also must take a hard look at our portfolio of brands and ensure they reflect our values and meet our consumers’ expectations,” Kristin Kroepfl, vice president and chief marketing officer, Quaker Foods North America, said in a news release.
“We recognize Aunt Jemima’s origins are based on a racial stereotype. 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,” she added.
“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 said.
“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.”
The words rang hollow to Evans.
His great-grandmother — Anna Short Harrington — was not the first woman to be dubbed “Aunt Jemima.” (Nancy Green, who was a former slave, first personified the character at Chicago’s World’s Fair in 1893 and continued in that role until 1923.)
But Evans said Harrington was discovered by Quaker Oats in 1935 while serving her pancakes at the New York State Fair. He said Quaker used her likeness on its products, and sent Harrington around the nation to serve pancakes.
“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,” he said.
“This woman served all those people, and it was after slavery. She worked as Aunt Jemima. That was her job,” Evans added. “How do you think I feel as a black man sitting here telling you about my family history they’re trying to erase?”
Evans said companies such as Quaker Oats should do more for black citizens than offer an apology as they consign brands like Aunt Jemima to the dustbin of history.
“How many white people were raised looking at characters like Aunt Jemima at breakfast every morning? 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,” he said.
“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?”
The company’s action was mocked on Twitter:
When the left cares more about Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben than Captain David Dorn and Patrick Underwood—two black officers killed in the line of duty—ask yourself, “is it really all about black lives?”
— Charlie Kirk (@charliekirk11) June 19, 2020
Aunt Jemima was Nancy Green She was an American success story. She was born into slavery in 1834 in KY & became wealthy superstar in advertisement world. She was selected spokesman at 1893 fair for the new pancake mix & was signed to a lifetime contract
Now crybabies killed her pic.twitter.com/iZ72Sx6wwn
— Villi Wilson❌ (@Conservative_VW) June 18, 2020
Quaker Foods renaming Aunt Jemima syrup bottles is surely going to help end global slavery, which primarily exists in Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.
We got this guys! pic.twitter.com/04qCfBqWTa
— Paul Joseph Watson (@PrisonPlanet) June 18, 2020
Evans had tried to get money from Quaker after Harrington died, claiming that she was a Quaker employee, but his 2014 lawsuit seeking cash was thrown out on the grounds he did not have legal standing to sue.
Mars Foods, which sells Uncle Ben’s rice, said it will be making changes to its product’s brand identity. ConAgra said that it will likewise overhaul Mrs. Butterworth’s brand of pancake syrup. B&G Foods then said it will make changes to Cream of Wheat.
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