Family of Woman Who Portrayed Aunt Jemima Isn’t Happy Brand is Being Renamed

An East Texas family with a relative who portrayed Aunt Jemima isn’t happy that the brand has decided to rename the iconic maple syrup, arguing that the move is erasing their legacy of their deceased great-cousin, Lillian Richard.

Richard portrayed Aunt Jemima in a series of Quaker Oats company promotions, advertisements, and real life events in a career that lasted from the 1920’s to 50’s. She later became a goodwill ambassador for the town of Hawkins, Texas, which was designated the pancake capital of Texas in 1995 in her honor.

Vera Harris, a family historian for the Richard family of Hawkins, explained why the family opposes Quaker Oats’ decision to rename the maple syrup brand in a discussion with WBTV.

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. 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.

Harris argued that the reasoning behind the renaming ignored the history of the maple syrup brand.

She was considered a hero on Hawkins, and we are proud of that. We do not want that history erased. 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.”

Critics of the Aunt Jemima imagery claim the character invokes a stereotype stemming from slavery, apparently under the belief that the allusion to traditional American cuisine is racist.

Harris also expressed opposition to the renaming of U.S. military bases, citing the family’s members who have served in the armed forces.