Family members of the woman whose likeness served as the basis for the Aunt Jemima syrup brand say they don’t want Quaker Foods to change the name because the affiliation gave her great fame at a pre-civil rights’ fight time when job opportunities for blacks were low-to-zero. That, and it was “honest work” for honest pay. Imagine.
Here’s a story that won’t make the major news networks.
It doesn’t fit the narrative of the left.
Vera Harris, a Texas woman who talked to The Daily Mail, said Lillian Richard, the woman on the Aunt Jemima bottle, was her second cousin and that she served as Quaker’s brand ambassador for more than 20 years, beginning in 1925, and that the “mammy” image led to the construction of a historic marker in her hometown of Fouke.
And that it was a marker that was proudly received.
“A lot of people want it removed,” Harris said to local KLTV. “We want the world to know that our cousin Lillian was one of the Aunt Jemima’s and she made an honest living. We would ask that you reconsider just wiping all that away. 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. She made an honest living out of it for a number of years.”
Apparently, Richard was a local celebrity; she toured Texas as ambassador of Aunt Jemima. And remember: This was at a time when job opportunities for blacks were few and far between — nonexistent, really, for those seeking anything high-profile, in the vein of celebrity-ism.
“She was considered a hero in Hawkins, and we are proud of that,” Harris said. “We do not want that history erased.”
Nor should it be.
Quaker, as a private company with profits that depend in large part on public perceptions, has every right to name-change a brand or logo or complete marketing plan.
But not all see Aunt Jemima in a racist light.
To some, she’s just a smiling face, albeit black, on a syrup bottle.
To still some others, she’s a proud icon, worthy of historical marking, worthy of remembering honorably.
And if Aunt Jemima’s own family members aren’t offended by the image, maybe the rest of us shouldn’t be, either.
• Cheryl Chumley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter, @ckchumley. Listen to her podcast “Bold and Blunt” by clicking HERE. And never miss her column; subscribe to her newsletter by clicking HERE.