Amidst the recent news of Quaker Foods’ decision to rebrand Aunt Jemima, the great-grandson of the original Aunt Jemima, Anna Short Harrington, has expressed his frustration and disappointment at the erasure of his great-grandmother’s heritage. Larnell Evans Sr. and his family feel that this move is unfair and disrespectful.
Evans strongly believes that the company has been profiting from the depiction of his ancestors’ enslavement. By removing Aunt Jemima’s image and history, they are disregarding the legacy of a woman of color. This hurts him deeply.
The story of Aunt Jemima dates back to the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, where former slave Nancy Green first portrayed the character. Green’s role was to serve pancakes while wearing an apron and headscarf. After Green’s passing in 1923, Anna Short Harrington took up the mantle and continued the tradition.
Harrington, known for her delicious pancakes, worked as a chef and served fraternities at Syracuse University. Her talent was recognized when a Quaker Foods employee discovered her at the 1935 New York State Fair. From then on, Harrington became the face of Aunt Jemima, appearing in advertisements and on products.
Over her 20-year career with Quaker Oats, Harrington traveled across the United States and Canada, delighting people with her pancakes. Evans proudly highlights that she served everyone during a time marked by racial tensions. He questions why his family’s history is being erased, as they were an integral part of the brand’s success.
Evans, a former Marine and now 66 years old, also revealed that Quaker Foods used Harrington’s pancake recipe without compensating her heirs. In 2014, they attempted to sue the company for $3 billion in unpaid royalties, but their case was unsuccessful.
Evans firmly believes that Quaker Foods should acknowledge the profits they made by using the likenesses of his great-grandmother and Nancy Green, as well as images of slavery. Instead of completely removing their legacy, he suggests they should confront the history head-on and provide restitution. He poses the question, how many white people benefitted from Aunt Jemima’s image and cartoons without giving back?
As Quaker Foods proceeds with the rebranding, Evans wonders why they have the power to erase history without acknowledging the pain it caused. He wants them to reflect upon their actions and take responsibility for the harm that has been done.
In the end, Quaker Foods has stated that by the end of the year, all Aunt Jemima branding and artwork will be removed from their products.