Lawsuit casts light on Aunt Jemima’s problematic brand

Family members of women who appeared as the character over the years are seeking $2 billion and a share of future pancake profits.

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For months, Washington D.C.’s NFL team has been taking heat over what many call its racially offensive name, the Redskins.

Now, another brand, Aunt Jemima—whose longtime spokeswoman has a history steeped in minstrelsy and the “mammy” archetype of black servant women—is having to face down criticism, and a lawsuit, of its own.

A group of descendants of women who have portrayed the Aunt Jemima character over the years is suing the brand—owned by Quaker Oats, a division of PepsiCo—for $2 billion and a share of future revenue. The suit, filed by two great-grandsons of Anna S. Harrington, claims not only was ex-slave Nancy Green the original Aunt Jemima model, but that she and Harrington helped formulate the recipe.

“Aunt Jemima has become known as one of the most exploited and abused women in American history,” D.W. Hunter, one of the plaintiffs, told the Louisville Courier-Journal.

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