Did the Woman Behind Aunt Jemima Die a Millionaire?

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Did the Female Behind Auntie Jemima Pass Away a Millionaire?

In June 2020, the Quake Oats Business revealed that it would be re-branding its Auntie Jemima line of items– syrup, pancake mix, and other breakfast foods– due to the fact that the brand name’s origins were based upon racial stereotypes. Kristin Kroepfl, vice president and chief marketing officer of Quake Foods The United States and Canada, informed NBC News:

“We recognize Aunt Jemima’s origins are based on a racial stereotype. While work has been done over the years to update the brand in a manner intended to be appropriate and respectful, we realize those changes are not enough.”

This choice triggered some online outrage as social networks users implicated Quake Oats of eliminating its history and reducing the achievements of Nancy Green, the lady who represented Auntie Jemima in marketing products in the late 1800 s and early 1900 s. Much of these posts declared that Green was among the very first African American millionaires due to the fact that of the quantity of cash she made playing Auntie Jemima:

However Green did not pass away a millionaire. In reality, she might not live off the incomes she made from her representation of Auntie Jemima, and continued to work as a housemaid till a couple of years prior to her death in1923

The Origins of Auntie Jemima

The origins of Auntie Jemima can be traced back to 1889 when Chris Rutt and Charles Underwood produced a self-rising pancake mix. The item initially brought the name “self-rising pancake flour,” however Rutt was influenced to alter the name of the mix after he went to a minstrel program and saw males worn blackface carry out a tune entitled “Old Aunt Jemima.”

The Encyclopedia of African American Pop culture composes:

In the fall of 1889, Rutt was influenced to relabel the mix after participating in a minstrel program, throughout which a pop music entitled “Old Aunt Jemima” was carried out by males in blackface, among whom was impersonated a servant mammy of the plantation South.

While Rutt and Underwood established this self-rising mix and contributed the “Aunt Jemima” name, they were not able to turn their item into a business success. The duo offered their milling business to R.T. Davis, who, with Green’s assistance, would go on to produce the personality of Auntie Jemima and turn the brand name into a nationwide item.

Green’s World Fair Launching

Davis worked with Green, who was born a servant in Kentucky in 1834, to represent Auntie Jemima at the World’s Fair in Chicago in1893 Green, as Auntie Jemima, served pancakes to the crowd and informed glamorized “stories” of her time on the plantation. While these stories existed as if they were the real memories of Auntie Jemima, Green was, naturally, simply playing an imaginary character.

In “Mammy: A Century of Race, Gender, and Southern Memory,” author Kimberly Wallace-Sanders composes:

At one point the most trustworthy methods of combining the nation included causing a type of nationwide amnesia about the history of slavery. Auntie Jemima was produced to commemorate cutting edge innovation through a pancake mix; she did not commemorate the pledge of post-Emancipation development for African Americans. Auntie Jemima’s “freedom” was negated, or withdrawed, in this function due to the fact that of the character’s personality as a plantation servant, not a complimentary black lady utilized as a domestic. An African American lady, pretending to be a servant, was critical to the hallmark’s industrial accomplishment in1893 Its success focused on the dream of returning a black lady to a sterilized variation of slavery. The Auntie Jemima character included a regression of race relations, and her character assisted introduce a popular revival of the “happy slave” folklore of the antebellum South.

[…]

Nancy Green, a previous servant from Kentucky, played the very first Auntie Jemima. Green was a middle-aged lady living on the South Side of Chicago, working as a cook and maid for a popular judge. After a series of auditions, she was worked with to prepare and serve the brand-new pancake dish at the World’s Fair. Part of her act was to inform stories from her own early servant life in addition to plantation tales composed for her by a white southern sales agent. This mix of historical and mythic plantation was developed to perpetuate the “historical amnesia necessary for confidence in the American future.” That this amnesia happened at the expenditure of African American development was plainly not a concern for the Pearl Milling Business, the developer of Auntie Jemima.

A pamphlet detailing the “life” of Auntie Jemima, which represented her as a “happy” servant with a “secret recipe” operating at a plantation owned by Colonel Higbee of Louisiana, was likewise produced for the 1893 World’s Fair, and laid the structure for future ads to develop on the Auntie Jemima misconception.

One artifact from the early days of Auntie Jemima’s imaginary history was a set of paper dolls that apparently revealed Auntie Jemima and her household prior to and after they offered her secret pancake dish. The “before” set consisted of 6 paper dolls without shoes and worn shoddy clothes, while the “after” set consisted of a set of “fancy” clothing.

However these dolls, like the majority of the imaginary tradition surrounding Auntie Jemima, did not properly show truth.

Was Green a Millionaire?

We have actually been not able to discover any particular information about just how much Green was spent for her representation of Auntie Jemima. The proof, nevertheless, recommends that Green did not prosper from her work and was most likely paid a paltry amount.

In “Clinging to Mammy: The Faithful Slave in Twentieth-Century America,” Micki McElya composes that in 1900, Green noted her profession as a “cook.” While this might have described her task showing pancake mix as Auntie Jemima, in 1910, she was working as a “housekeeper.”

Because year (1900) she noted her profession as “cook,” which might have described her task showing Auntie Jemima pancake mix otherwise suggested that her main work stayed in domestic service. The latter held true in 1910, when she reported her task as “housekeeper” in a personal home. Carrying out as the trademarked mammy was not her main task by that time, if it ever had actually been.


We connected to McElya to find out more about what financial payments Green got for her representation of Auntie Jemima. McElya could not indicate a particular dollar quantity, however she did state that she “found no evidence that Nancy Green died a millionaire in 1923,” which “the available evidence suggests otherwise.”

Obituaries for Green released in The Chicago Tribune and Daily Herald likewise made no reference of her being among the very first African American females to end up being a millionaire:

While no proof exists to recommend that Green passed away a millionaire, she did make adequate cash (as both a housemaid and for her marketing work as Auntie Jemina) to support the missionary work of the Olivet Baptist Church in Chicago.

It must likewise be kept in mind that Green’s descendants (in addition to the descendants of another Black lady who represented Auntie Jemima) submitted a claim versus Quake Oats, arguing that the business made use of Green, which her household was owed billions in royalties. The suit was later on dismissed after a judge ruled that the complainants did not offer evidence that they were associated with the females who represented Auntie Jemima.

U.S.A. Today reported:

Now, a claim declares that Green’s beneficiaries in addition to the descendants of other black females who looked like Auntie Jemima should have $2 billion and a share of future profits from sales of the popular brand name.

The federal fit, submitted in Chicago in August by 2 great-grandsons of Anna Short Harrington, states that she and Green were type in developing the dish for the country’s very first self-rising pancake mix, which Green developed the concept of including powdered milk for additional taste.

“Aunt Jemima has become known as one of the most exploited and abused women in American history,” stated D.W. Hunter, among Harrington’s great-grandsons.

None of the product we took a look at pointed out Green’s amassing of a fortune for her representation of Auntie Jemima. The report that Green passed away a millionaire is, like much of the folklore surrounding Auntie Jemima, not supported by historic proof.

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