Family of Woman Who Portrayed ‘Aunt Jemima’ Opposes Rebranding

Aunt Jemima, Syrup.
Mike Mozart / Flickr

The family of Lillian Richard, one of the women who portrayed Aunt Jemima — the smiling woman featured on popular breakfast foods and syrups — opposes Quaker Foods’ decision to undergo a rebranding, and explained that Richard became a “hero” in the city of Hawkins, Texas, and emphasized that they “do not want that history erased.”

Lillian Richard was one of several women who portrayed Aunt Jemima, and became a brand ambassador for Quaker Oats in 1925. She worked for the company for over two decades, and served pancakes as Aunt Jemima across the Lone Star State before she passed away in 1956.

“A lot of people want it removed. We want the world to know that our cousin Lillian was one of the Aunt Jemima’s and she made an honest living,” said Vera Harris, second cousin to Richard, according to KLTV.

“We would ask that you reconsider just wiping all that away,” she implored. “There wasn’t a lot of jobs, especially for black women back in that time. She was discovered by Quaker Oats to be their brand person.”

“I wish we would take a breath and not just get rid of everything, because good or bad, it is our history. Removing that wipes away a part of me. A part of each of us. We are proud of our cousin,” Harris added.

Quaker Foods announced last week that it would scrap Aunt Jemima, who has been featured on the breakfast products for 130 years, after concluding that the origins were “based on a racial stereotype.”

“We recognize Aunt Jemima’s origins are based on a racial stereotype,” said Kristin Kroepfl, vice president and chief marketing officer of Quaker Foods North America.

“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,” she added.

Harris and the Richard family are not the only individuals who oppose the brand’s removal. Larnell Evans Sr., a descendant of Anna Short Harrington, another woman who depicted Aunt Jemima, described the brand change as “an injustice for me and my family.”

“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 said.

As Breitbart News reported:

Evans and a nephew sought $3 billion from Quaker Foods in 2014, alleging the company used his relative’s pancake recipe and did not pay royalties. The suit failed.

“She worked for that Quaker Oats for 20 years. She traveled all the way around the United States and Canada making pancakes as Aunt Jemima for them,” Evans told Patch.

“This woman served all those people, and it was after slavery. She worked as Aunt Jemima. 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?”

Several brands have since stepped forward, announcing their intentions to review and, in some cases, rebrand their products following weeks of rising racial tensions across the nation.

Mrs. Butterworth’s is undergoing a review, as is Cream of Wheat’s packaging, which features a smiling black chef. Uncle Ben’s brand, featuring the image of an older black man, will experience a change in “brand identity, as will Eskimo Pie ice cream, following the company recognizing the term as “derogatory.”

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