Descendants Want Aunt Jemima Maintained

June 22, 2020
Relatives of two women who inspired the racially charged image want the PepsiCo decision reconsidered.

Descendants of two women who inspired the Aunt Jemima image are angry the photos and branding will be changed because the character’s origins are based on a racial stereotype. They say the effort will erase part of their family histories.

In Chicago, the great-grandson of Anna Short Harrington said the effort is "an injustice for me and my family. This is part of my history."

And in Texas, the “family historian” and second cousin of Lillian Richard said, “She was considered a hero in [her hometown of] Hawkins, and we are proud of that. We do not want that history erased.”

Vera Harris, Lillian Richard’s descendant, told news station KLTV the family takes pride in Quaker Oats scouting Richard to become a brand representative in 1925. She worked for the company for 23 years, traveling around as Aunt Jemima to serve pancakes until she suffered a stroke.

“We want the world to know that our cousin Lillian was one of the Aunt Jemimas and she made an honest living. We would ask that you reconsider just wiping all that away,” Harris said.

Richards was just one of the Aunt Jemimas. Larnell Evans Sr. told Chicago Patch his great-grandmother began appearing on the pancake mix and syrup bottles in 1935 after she was discovered by Quaker. Evans said she toured the country as the brand's representative and served pancakes as part of those duties for two decades.

“She worked as Aunt Jemima. That was her job,” he said.

Quaker Oats was bought by PepsiCo in 2006. In the wake of the nation’s re-evaluation of race relations, PepsiCo last week said it would make some branding change, prompting similar announcements from Mrs. Butterworth, Uncle Ben's and Cream Of Wheat.

A poll last week found Americans split on whether the images should go.

“I wish we would take a breath and not just get rid of everything, because good or bad, it is our history,” said Harris.