Quaker Oats announced last week that they are going to retire their Aunt Jemima brand of pancake mix and syrup due to it being based on a racial stereotype. This decision is a response to the Black Lives Matter protests that were reinvigorated after the death of Minneapolis man George Floyd. While much of Black America is pleased with this decision, there’s one particular person who is outraged.
A great-grandson of one of the women who portrayed Aunt Jemima’s character came forward and expressed being offended by the brand’s decision.
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“This is an injustice for me and my family. This is part of my history, sir,” Larnell Evans Sr. 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.”
The first woman to embody Aunt Jemima was a former slave named Nancy Green. After she died in a car crash in 1923, Evans’ great-grandmother Anna Short Harrington took her place.
“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?”
Besides using her image, Quaker Oats also used Harrington’s recipe for their pancake mix. Evans and his nephew filed a lawsuit against the company in 2014 for not paying royalties to her descendants. Unfortunately, their case was dismissed with prejudice because he and his nephew are not executors on her estate and cannot sue on her behalf.
Quaker Oats isn’t the only brand removed images inspired by racial stereotypes. Mars Inc. is also removing the image placed on their boxes of Uncle Ben’s instant rice. Evans added that he doesn’t agree with these brands ridding their products of these images without giving the families of their former spokespersons some compensation.
“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,” Evans continued. “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? … They’re not going to give us nothing? What gives them the right?”
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