Quaker Oats announced Wednesday the immediate rebranding of its Aunt Jemima breakfast line, claiming the company name and logo perpetuate “racial stereotypes.” The move came in response to a renewed national discussion about the far-reaching impacts of racism.
“Aunt Jemima’s origins are based on a racial stereotype,” the company said.
Now, the great-grandson of “Aunt Jemima” is speaking out, criticizing the move.
Larnell Evans Sr. told Patch that the attempt by Quaker Oats to rewrite history is a great “injustice.”
“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.”
“This company profits off images of our slavery. And their answer is to erase my great-grandmother’s history. A black female,” he added. “It hurts.”
According to Patch, 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.
Harrington was born on a South Carolina plantation where her family worked as sharecroppers. In 1927, a white family from New York “bought” Harrington to be their maid. She made a living as cook at the Kappa Sigma fraternity house in Syracuse and worked for wealthy white people, including Gov. Thomas E. Dewey. She was discovered by a Quaker Oats representative while serving up her pancakes, a favorite of local frat boys, at the New York State Fair in 1935.
Quaker Oats used Harrington’s likeness on products and advertising, and it sent her around the country to serve flapjacks dressed as “Aunt Jemima.” The gig made her a national celebrity.
“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,” Evans explained.
“This woman served all those people, and it was after slavery. She worked as Aunt Jemima. That was her job,” he continued. “How do you think I feel as a black man sitting here telling you about my family history they’re trying to erase?”