Earlier this week Quaker Oats, the parent company of Aunt Jemima, the iconic pancake brand, announced their intentions to rebrand. According to the company, “the brand has not progressed enough” to reflect their corporate values.
“As we work to make progress toward racial equality through several initiatives, we also must take a hard look at our portfolio of brands and ensure they reflect our values and meet our consumers’ expectations,” Kristin Kroepfl, Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of Quaker Foods North America, said in a statement. “We recognize Aunt Jemima’s origins are based on a racial stereotype. While work has been done over the years to update the brand in a manner intended to be appropriate and respectful, we realize those changes are not enough.”
But what most people don’t know is that “Aunt Jemima” is based on a real woman. Nancy Green was hired in 1893 to service pancakes at Chicago’s World’s Fair. Green wore an apron and headscarf while serving pancakes, which she did until her death in 1923.
Anna Short Harrington eventually replaced Green. And it was Harrington who Quaker Oats discovered as the iconic “Aunt Jemima” character. In fact, the company used her likeness on their products and even sent her around the country to make flapjacks for people, which launched her to stardom.
Larnell Evans Sr., Harrington’s great-grandson, told Patch about his family’s history:
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