An African-American family whose relative once portrayed the Aunt Jemima character says their history is being “erased” after Quaker Oats announced it was ditching the image.
Last week, the company said it was scrapping the famous name and image, which appears primarily on their pancake syrup product, because “Aunt Jemima’s origins are based on a racial stereotype.”
Lillian Richard became a goodwill ambassador for the brand in 1925 and worked for Quaker Oats for 23 years before dying in 1956.
Vera Harris, who is the family historian for the Richard family of Hawkins and Lillian’s second cousin, said the move to erase Aunt Jemima is an insult to Lillian Richard’s legacy.
“A lot of people want it removed. 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,” she told KLTV.
In the Fouke community just outside Hawkins, Texas is a historic marker dedicated to Lillian Richard, who is recognized as one of several women who portrayed Aunt Jemima. https://t.co/KpSC29JimF
— WKYT (@WKYT) June 22, 2020
“She was considered a hero in Hawkins, and we are proud of that. We do not want that history erased,” Harris added.
According to Harris, Richard “made an honest living out of it for a number of years” by touring around Texas during a time when it was difficult for black women to get jobs.
She also voiced her opposition to the more widespread attempt to erase history, which has manifested itself in the removal of statues since Black Lives Matter protests were re-ignited last month.
“I wish we would take a breath and not just get rid of everything. because good or bad, it is our history. Removing that wipes away a part of me. A part of each of us. We are proud of our cousin,” Harris said.
She also expressed her opposition to the renaming of military bases because many of her relatives are veterans.
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