Aunt Jemima’s Great-Grandson Expresses Anger Over Erasure of Legacy


The great-grandson of the actress who portrayed the Aunt Jemima character for almost two decades has voiced his outrage over Quaker Oats’ decision to rebrand its pancake mix and syrup, believing that it is erasing his family’s history.

Anguish Over Rebranding

Larnell Evans Sr., the great-grandson of Anna Short Harrington, who played Aunt Jemima from 1935 to 1954, is angry about the rebranding of the products. He argues that this action dismisses the legacy she built over twenty years. In an interview with Patch, Evans Sr. expressed his frustration, stating, “This is an injustice for me and my family. This is part of my history, sir. 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.”

Background and Decision to Rebrand

The decision to rebrand Aunt Jemima products was made in response to the civil unrest following the death of George Floyd, an African American man who died in police custody. Quaker Oats changed the name and image of Aunt Jemima as they no longer aligned with the company’s core values. The brand’s new name, Pearl Milling Company, pays homage to the original mill that produced the pancake mix.


Racist Origins of the Aunt Jemima Brand

The Aunt Jemima brand has faced criticism in the past due to its racist origins. The brand’s image was based on a “mammy” character, a submissive servant who cared for white families while neglecting her own. The name “Aunt Jemima” originated from a song often performed in minstrel shows by white individuals in blackface.


Call for Restitution

Despite the rebranding, Larnell Evans Sr. believes that Quaker Oats should provide restitution to his family for the profits they made off the images of slavery. In 2014, Evans and his nephew filed a lawsuit seeking $3 billion from the company for not paying royalties to Harrington’s descendants. However, the case was dismissed by a judge who stated that Evans and his nephew lacked standing as executors of Harrington’s estate.

Additional Faces of Aunt Jemima

Anna Harrington was not the only woman to portray Aunt Jemima. Nancy Green, a former slave who worked as a cook, was the first Black woman to represent the brand. She wore an apron and headscarf while serving pancakes at the fairgrounds. Lillian Richard and Anna Robinson also played Aunt Jemima for extended periods.


Other Descendants’ Perspectives

Descendants of other Aunt Jemima actresses also expressed their objections to the rebranding. Vera Harris, a descendant of Lillian Richard, understood the motivation behind Quaker Oats’ decision but did not want her ancestor’s legacy to be lost. Similarly, Marcus Hayes, a great-nephew of Nancy Green, emphasized the need to preserve her accomplishments and the positive impact she made under the Aunt Jemima name.

“I understand what Quaker Oats is doing because I’m Black and I don’t want a negative image promoted. However, I just don’t want her legacy lost, because if her legacy is swept under the rug and washed away, it’s as if she never was a person.” – Vera Harris

“I do understand the sensitivity of the name and the brand. But at the same time, I don’t want Nancy Green’s legacy and what she did under that name to be lost.” – Marcus Hayes

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