US History: The Story of Nancy Green – The “Aunt Jemima” Success Story

Aunt Jemima 

The world knew her as “Aunt Jemima,” but her given name was Nancy Green and she was a true American success story. Born a slave in 1834 Montgomery County, KY, she became a wealthy superstar in the advertising world, as its first living trademark. While in Kentucky, Green was employed by Charles Walker, then an attorney and later a distinguished Circuit Judge. She moved with the family to Chicago just after the Great Fire in 1872.

Walker heard that a friend was looking for a model for the Aunt Jemima character, and he suggested Green who, by that time, had served the family for many years. She was instantly recognized with the characteristics the guy was looking for… charisma, humor, and a fantastic cook.       

Green was 56-yrs old when she was selected as spokesperson for the new ready-mixed, self-rising pancake flour and made her public debut in 1893 at the World’s Fair in Chicago. She demonstrated the pancake mix while serving up thousands of pancakes… and became an immediate star.  She was a wonderful 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 philanthropist, a leading advocate against poverty, and a fighter for equal rights.
She maintained her job until her death in 1923, at age 89, after becoming one of America’s first black millionaires.

 This was a remarkable woman… and she has just been ERASED by politically correct liberal protesters.

HERE IS MORE ON HER STORY:

You probably don’t know the name Nancy Green, but you’d recognize her face. The Chicago woman originally portrayed the Aunt Jemima trademark, and efforts are being made to preserve her legacy as Quaker Oats removes the Aunt Jemima name and image from their popular pancake products.

The brand name Aunt Jemima — which Quaker Oats officials admitted this week is “based on a racial stereotype” — was derived from an African American “mammy” character from a popular minstrel show in the late 19th century. Green, a former slave who moved to Chicago to work as a caretaker for a prominent white family, was hired to portray a living version of the character at the 1893 World’s Fair, according to her obituaries. She was later hired to play the role for the pancake company until her death.

Although the name Aunt Jemima is well-known, Green’s is not. And one Chicago historian worries that removing the Aunt Jemima image could erase Green’s legacy — and the legacies of many Black women who worked as caretakers and cooks for both white families and their own.

“Black mothers are not irrelevant,” said Bronzeville Historical Society President Sherry Williams. “I look at Nancy Green as a Black mother figure, and Black women are the lifelines for generations, both Black and white.” Through extensive research, Williams learned Green was a philanthropist and ministry leader. Williams is now attempting to place a headstone on Green’s unmarked grave, to help preserve the memory of the real woman as the character she portrayed fades away.

News stories about the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago described Green standing next to the world’s largest flour barrel, making pancakes and telling romanticized stories about her days as a slave in the South. Saturday Evening Post/

After the fair, Green was offered a lifetime contract with the pancake company and traveled the country on promotional tours until she died at the age of 89 after being hit by a car while walking on 46th Street.

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  • Clyde Duncan  On July 2, 2020 at 8:37 pm

    No Evidence Former Slave Who Helped Launch Aunt Jemima Products Became A Millionaire

    By BEATRICE DUPUY | AP

    CLAIM: “Nancy Green (aka Aunt Jemima) was born into slavery. She was a magnificent cook. When she was ‘freed’ she rolled her talent into a cooking brand that General Mills bought and used her likeness. She died in 1923 as one of America’s first black millionaires.”

    AP’S ASSESSMENT: FALSE. There is no evidence that Green’s portrayal as Aunt Jemima made her into a millionaire.

    THE FACTS: After Quaker Oats announced that it would retire the Aunt Jemima brand, known for its pancake mixes, posts online began circulating a false tale about the first woman who portrayed Aunt Jemima.

    The claims about Green were shared widely across Facebook and Twitter. One post on Facebook had more than 9,000 shares.

    “Aunt Jemima really do you know her history?” a Facebook post carrying the false claim stated, criticizing Quaker Oats decision to remove the character from the brand.

    The brand got its name from the minstrel song “Old Aunt Jemima”, which was composed by African American comedian and performer Billy Kersands. Chris Rutt, who created the pancake flour in 1889, was inspired by the song after hearing it during a minstrel performance and decided to give the name to his pancake flour. At the time, Aunt Jemima was seen as a “mammy” character, a racial stereotype of a slave happy to please her white masters.

    Rutt then sold his company to a larger milling company, R.T. Davis Milling Co., after failing to sell the flour. The milling company brought its mix to the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago and hired Nancy Green, a former slave who was working as a cook for a judge, to act as Aunt Jemima and sell the pancake flour.

    “This began a really long tradition of women being Aunt Jemima in public performance,” said Maurice M. Manring, author of “Slave in a Box: The Strange Career of Aunt Jemima.” “Aunt Jemima became a national brand advertising nationally.”

    Manring added that the fame of the brand Aunt Jemima coincided with the explosion of advertising during World War I. The brand created a whole backstory for Aunt Jemima giving her a fictional family and creating made up events about her life.

    HOWEVER, THERE IS NO EVIDENCE THAT NANCY GREEN SHARED IN ANY OF THE PROFITS FROM THE COMPANY THAT SOLD THE PANCAKE MIX, said Patricia A. Turner, professor of African American studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, and author.

    GREEN WOULD CONTINUE HER WORK AS A HOUSEKEEPER AND DIED IN 1923 AFTER BEING HIT BY A CAR.

    In “Clinging to Mammy: The Faithful Slave in Twentieth-Century America,” author Micki McElya wrote that very few people outside Green’s close friends and fellow parishioners at Olivet Baptist Church were aware of her role as Aunt Jemima.

    The brand would replace Green as Aunt Jemima with several different women, including Anna Harrington. In 2014, the descendants of Harrington sued Quaker Oats and its parent company PepsiCo saying that Green and Harrington were exploited and asked for their shares in developing the brand.

    The decision by Quaker Oats to retire the Aunt Jemima name comes after weeks of protests demanding justice for George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man killed by police in Minneapolis, and national outrage over the treatment of black Americans in the U.S.

    Quaker Oats told the AP that it acknowledged that Aunt Jemima’s origins were 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,” Kristin Kroepfl of Quaker Foods North America, said.
    ___

    This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.

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