The iconic brand of pancake mix and other products produced by Quaker Oats has been criticized over the years because of the stereotype image of “Aunt Jemima”, a figure representing the Southern mammy character, a well-loved servant figure who worked in the home of slave owner families cooking and taking care of the children. This figure and brand name is being changed by Quaker in light of the recent events that call to light enduring symbols of racism and oppression such as the Confederate flag, statues of traitorous military figures, and military bases named for Southern rebel leaders.
Originally invented by a newspaperman named Chris Rutt and partner, Charles Underwood, the self-rising pancake mix was introduced at the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893. The brand name came from the song “Old Aunt Jemima”, which was often performed by a character in blackface and it was also sung by slaves. The innovative product was demonstrated by a former slave named Nancy Green, who was born in Montgomery County, Kentucky. Her demonstrations of the pancakes were so popular at the Fair that she was lauded for her performances at a World’s Fair where there was little participation by Black people whatsoever.
Nancy Green promoted the Pancake mix all around the country until her death in an automobile accident in 1923. But there was more to Nancy Green than just her Aunt Jemima character. While not promoting the brand, Nancy was very active in her church in Chicago and worked to help people who were underprivileged and in poverty.
More on: Who is Nancy Green?
Bernard C. Turner