We’ve all grown up on Aunt Jemima. The classic pancake mix and syrup has been a part of many of our childhood memories. Now it appears as though the brand will be changing its name and look. This decision comes after the brand’s owner, Quaker Oats, stated that the origins of Aunt Jemima had been based on a racial stereotype.
When it was first introduced back on November 1, 1889, Aunt Jemima was meant to portray the “mammy” stereotype. Mammy, for one, is an idea rooted in racism and depicts African American women as very content with their job of serving their Caucasian masters. This depiction helped paint a rosy picture of slavery. What many people don’t know is that Aunt Jemima was based off of an African American female named Nancy Green who had just moved to Chicago in order to work as a housekeeper. Green would be hired to portray Aunt Jemima at the 1893 World’s Fair that was held here in Chicago. She would then go on to work this job until her untimely death in 1923. She is buried at the historic Oak Woods Cemetery. Following her death different women would take on the role of Aunt Jemima and the company would begin to change her look over the years.
A question that can be posed is whether or not retiring the brand would completely erase the history of Nancy Green? Many of us knew very little of her prior to this. Is this a step in the right direction or an erasing of history? Let us know how you feel with an emoji.
By Monique Petty-Ashmeade, Freshman, DePaul University