Quaker Oats made a decision in 2020 to retire the “Aunt Jemima” brand as a response to the Black Lives Matter movement. However, just one day after the announcement, Larnell Evans Sr., a great-grandson of Nancy Green, the woman who was the model for the Aunt Jemima logo, spoke out against the decision. Evans believed that retiring the brand would only serve to erase black history and suffering.
“This is an injustice for me and my family. This is part of my history,” Evans, a Marine Corps veteran, stated according to Patch. He also accused the corporation of trying to erase slavery after profiting from it for years.
Evans claimed that the racism associated with using images from slavery came from white people, and Quaker Oats profits from images of slavery. “And their answer is to erase my great-grandmother’s history. A black female. … It hurts.”
Quaker Oats confirmed that it would retire the brand, which features the image of Nancy Green, who was formerly enslaved. Quaker described Green as a “storyteller, cook, and missionary worker,” but did not mention that she was born into slavery.
Green was originally hired to serve pancakes at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, the first time the Aunt Jemima brand was used. After her death in 1923, Anna Short Harrington took over the role of Aunt Jemima in 1935, as a Quaker Oats representative spotted her serving pancakes at the New York State Fair.
According to Evans, Harrington, who he claimed was his great-grandmother, worked for Quaker Oats for 20 years and traveled around the US and Canada making pancakes as Aunt Jemima. “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?” Evans said.
Evans is unhappy that Quaker Oats was able to profit from a racial stereotype before moving on when it became convenient. “How many white people were raised looking at characters like Aunt Jemima at breakfast every morning? How many white corporations made all the profits, and didn’t give us a dime?” Evans asked. “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?”
The decision by Quaker Oats to retire the Aunt Jemima brand sparked plenty of debate. Some agreed with Evans, while others believed that it was time to move past such racial stereotypes. The controversy surrounding the brand highlights the ongoing issues related to race and representation in American culture.