Quaker Oats recently announced that “Aunt Jemima” is being retired, because the logo was inspired by 19th century minstrel celebrating the “Mammy,” a black woman content to serve her white masters.
But the history of the original “Aunt Jemima” is an amazing story of success for a woman who was born a slave. Her given name was Nancy Green and she became a wealthy superstar in the advertising world, as its first living trademark.
Green was 56 years old when she was selected as spokesperson for a new ready-mixed, self-rising pancake flour and made her debut in 1893 at a fair and exposition in Chicago. She demonstrated the pancake mix and served thousands of pancakes… and became an immediate star. She was a good storyteller, her personality was warm and appealing, and her showmanship was exceptional. Her exhibition booth drew so many people that special security personnel were assigned to keep the crowds moving.
Nancy Green was signed to a lifetime contract, traveled on promotional tours all over the country, and was extremely well paid. Her financial freedom and stature as a national spokesperson enabled her to become a leading advocate against poverty and in favor of equal rights for folks in Chicago. She maintained her job until her death in 1923, at age 89.