"How do you think I feel as a black man sitting here telling you about my family history they're trying to erase?" he asked.
A day after Quaker Oats, "Aunt Jemima's" parent company, announced that it was retiring the name and packaging of the ubiquitous American pancake and syrup brand, a great-grandson of "Aunt Jemima" expressed his displeasure. Larnell Evans Sr., a Marine Corps veteran and a descendant of "Aunt Jemima" alleged that white American corporations were erasing Black history after years of profiting off racial stereotypes embedded deep in the annals of slavery. "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," he told Patch.
Quaker Oats, part of the Pepsico family of drinks and snacks, made the announcement in the wake of the #BlackLivesMatter protests following the death of a 46-year-old black man, George Floyd, at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer last month. His death, caused by the officer pinning him to the ground for 8 minutes and 46 seconds even as he pleaded "I can't breathe," caused widespread agitation in America and across the globe as people of color demanded an end to systemic racism. The fever-pitched protests have led many prominent figures to come out and condemn the injustice and corporate America has come out pledging billions of dollars into improving diversity at home and nurture race-friendly workspaces. They have also had to look into their product lineups and branding for offensive and distasteful imagery.
Maybe Quaker should instead set up a "Aunt Jemima Foundation" which funds college for deserving minority kids. Give preferences to direct descendants of these women. It's a better solution than throwing them away and forgetting their history, and how they have benefited Quaker.— Gordon Barbay (@gbarbay) June 19, 2020
Quaker had to pull the plug on the "Aunt Jemima's" brand after Miami-based singer Kirby Maurier went viral on TikTok with her "How not to make breakfast" video. Though the company has made changes to the brand over the years to make it more politically correct, it acknowledged that it wasn't enough and was removing the name and image for good to "make progress toward racial equality."
The company first used the brand name in 1893, the same year when a woman named Nancy Green was serving pancakes at the "Chicago's World's Fair." She wore an apron and headscarf while serving customers at the fairgrounds known as "The White City," imagery very similar to the early days of the brand.
Being born a century after slavery ended, I literally never looked at an Aunt Jemima syrup bottle and thought of slavery. She looked like everyone’s Grandma.— Laurie🇺🇸 (@laurchristine1) June 18, 2020
Quaker Oats described her as a "storyteller, cook, and missionary worker," but failed to mention that she was, in fact, born into slavery. A representative for Quaker Oats at the time used her likeness as the underlying basis of the image. Evans Sr.'s great-great-grandmother, Anna Short Harrington, was then hired by them in 1935 and she embodied the brand as "Aunt Jemima." Evans Sr. and his nephew sought $3 billion from Quaker Oats in royalties but were turned down by the Federal court as they were not executors of Harrington's estate, which prevented them from taking legal actions in her name. "She worked for that Quaker Oats for 20 years ... 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?"
Well, that’s the thing...We are destroying black history...These movies,statues, and food products give us a glimpse into another time...They serve as a reminder of where we came from...And it would be a shame if we forget the people who’s only legacy is stamped on a bottle...— A Joseph Vida (@JosephVida3) June 19, 2020