'It is our history': Families of Aunt Jemima former models oppose Quaker Oats' planned brand changes
Two families of women who portrayed Aunt Jemima reject Quaker Oats' plans to rename the syrup and pancake mix brand and change the icon.
Quaker Oats announced last week that it would retire Aunt Jemima because it was "based on a racist stereotype" and said its previous work to update the character was "not enough".
The move, which experts, historians, and some consumers considered long overdue, was the first in a series of rebranding announcements that included Uncle Bens, Mrs. Butterworths, Cream of Wheat, and Eskimo Pie.
Aunt Jemima's first picture is based on Kentucky-born Nancy Green, a civil war slave from Mount Sterling, according to the Louisville Courier Journal, which is part of the USA TODAY Network.
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Aunt Jemima was originally shown with a big smile and a headscarf in her hair, an image that has been criticized for years for being accused of promoting racist stereotypes. In 1989 the picture was revised, the new model wearing pearl earrings with straight curls.
Anna Short Harrington is considered a role model for Green.
Larnell Evans Sr., Harrington's great-grandson, told Patch that he was injured and offended by the brand's decision.
Other brands are rethinking racist images: Eskimo Pie, Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben's and Cream of Wheat are changing. Are the Washington Redskins the next?
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"It is an injustice for me and my family. This is part of my story, ”said Evans to Patch. “The racism they talk about with images from slavery comes from the other side - the whites. This company benefits from images of our slavery. And her answer is to erase my great-grandmother's story. "
Lillian Richard's family, a native of Hawkins, Texas, also spoke out against the renaming decision.
Richard was the face of Aunt Jemima from 1925 to 1940, reported a CBS station in Texas. Signs in the city read “Home of Lillian Richard's Aunt Jemima”. In 1995, Texas legislation passed a resolution declaring Hawkins a "pancake" capital of Texas. "
"I wish we could take a breath and not just get rid of everything, because good or bad, it's our story," Vera Harris, family historian of the Richard family, told KLTV. "Removing that wipes part of me away. Part of each of us. We are proud of our cousin. "
Ethel Ernestine Harper, the last real woman whose face appeared on the brand, later became part of the USA TODAY Network through schools, the scouts and as the current radio host in her adopted city of Morristown, New Jersey, a celebrated black history teacher.
Harper was born in Alabama in 1903, where she grew up and graduated from college at the age of 17 when she worked as a teacher and was president of the Birmingham City Federation of Colored Women's Clubs before moving to New York for a career in music to pursue.
Contributors: William Westhoven, Morristown (N.J.) Daily Record; Lucas Aulbach, Louisville (Ky.) Courier Journal
Follow USA TODAY reporter Kelly Tyko on Twitter: @KellyTyko
This article originally appeared TODAY in the US: Brand change at Aunt Jemima: Model families reject Quaker Oats' plan
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