After news that Quaker Oats was rebranding its Aunt Jemima product line, the family of the current Aunt Jemima is furious. The first “Aunt Jemima” debuted at Chicago’s World’s Fair in 1893. Former enslaved woman Nancy Green, who worked as a cook on the South Side. Green embodied the Aunt Jemima character until her death in 1923.
Larnell Evans Sr. says his great-grandmother — the late Anna Short Harrington — took Green’s place. Harrington was born on a South Carolina plantation where her family worked as sharecroppers. 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.” And it made her a national celebrity. The family tried to sue Quaker Oats for $2 Billion dollars in royalties because they say Harrinton’s recipe was being used.
“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. … How do you think I feel as a black man sitting here telling you about my family history they’re trying to erase?”