Plot twist! The family of the real-life Aunt Jemima is fighting back against her recent cancelation.
Larnell Evans Sr., the great-grandson of Anna Short Harrington, said it would be an insult to remove the iconic image to appease an angry mob.
“This is an injustice for me and my family. This is part of my history, sir,” Evans told a Patch reporter. “The racism they talk about, using images from slavery, that comes from the other side — white people. This company profits off images of our slavery. And their answer is to erase my great-grandmother’s history. A black female… It hurts.”
Harrington was not the original Aunt Jemima but rather the third and most recent. Originally it was another African American cook, Nancy Green, that appeared as the character beginning at the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1893. She would play the role until she died in a car accident in 1932.
Harrington then played Aunt Jemima for nearly 20 years from 1935 to 1954 after being discovered by Quaker Oats Company representatives while cooking pancakes at the 1935 New York State Fair.
She was then hired full-time as an actress to dress up like Aunt Jemima and travel North America, serving pancakes and promoting the brand.
In the role, Harrington made enough money to purchase a 22-room house in Syracuse (NY) with a backyard bungalow where she supplemented her income by renting many of the rooms to boarders. She died in Syracuse in 1955.
For their part, Quaker Oaks released a statement:
“We recognize Aunt Jemima’s origins are based on a racial stereotype. 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, told NBC News in a press release.
Harris did not let that statement end the conversation, responding to KIRO-TV, saying that eliminating prominent Blacks will not do anything to help.
“This woman served all those people, and it was after slavery. She worked as Aunt Jemima. That was her job,” Evans said. “How do you think I feel as a Black man sitting here telling you about my family history they’re trying to erase?”
CNN reported that a new name and logo for the product line would be announced in the fall.