Aunt Jemima heirs file lawsuit for $2 billion and revenue shares

theGRIO REPORT - Descendants of black women who appeared as Aunt Jemima have filed a lawsuit against Quaker Oats, saying they deserve $2 billion and a share of revenue from future sales...

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Descendants of black women who appeared as “Aunt Jemima” have filed a lawsuit against PepsiCo, owner of Quaker Oats and the Aunt Jemima brand, saying they deserve $2 billion and a share of revenue from future sales.

Heirs of Nancy Green, who was the first Aunt Jemima “Mammy” in 1890, and two great-grandsons of Anna Short Harrington, filed the lawsuit, stating Green and Harrington played vital roles in developing the Aunt Jemima recipe, reports The Courier Journal.

Green was born a slave in Kentucky and moved to Chicago following the Civil War. She worked as a cook for Judge Charles Walker, who reportedly recommended her for the Aunt Jemima position.

After Green’s death in 1923, descendants say Harrington was recruited to represent Aunt Jemima after the 1935 World’s Fair and claim she changed the recipe to include “potato grease.”

Harrington’s daughters are also believed to have appeared as Aunt Jemima.

The descendants believe Green and Harrington had contracts that said they would receive a percentage of the revenue earned every time their likeness was used, but no contracts have been located by either side.

“The image symbolizes a sense of caring, warmth, hospitality and comfort and is neither based on, nor meant to depict any one person,” according to a statement Quaker Oats gave The Courier Journal. “While we cannot discuss the details of pending litigation, we do not believe there is any merit to this lawsuit.”

However, the “Mammy” stereotype “romanticized the cruelty of slavery for a nation reconciling the trauma of the Civil War,” said Diane Roberts, author of The Myth of Aunt Jemima“It proved to white people that we couldn’t have been that mean to black people because ‘Mammy’ loves us.”

In regards to the recent lawsuit, Harrington’s great-grandson Hunter called it a “fight for the economic parity of rights of people whose civil and human rights have been violated.”

Follow theGrio’s Carrie Healy on Twitter @CarrieHeals

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