Was the Original ‘Aunt Jemima’ a Millionaire Entrepreneur?

A series of posts on Facebook and Twitter responding to Quaker Oats’ decision to discontinue the Aunt Jemima logo and brand went viral as they claimed to tell the history of Aunt Jemima.


The posts make similar claims: that discontinuing the brand is an affront to the legacy of the “original” Aunt Jemima, a former slave named Nancy Green who was the first model hired to portray the character. With a few variations, the posts say that Green created a cooking brand that was purchased by a larger company, which turned the brand into Aunt Jemima and used her likeness to promote the product. As a result, the posts claim, she became a millionaire. The viral tweet further suggests that Green created what became the Aunt Jemima brand, which was bought out by Genera Mills, and the Facebook post claims that Green’s supposed wealth allowed her to become an anti-poverty and equal rights activist.

The actual history of Nancy Green is a little difficult to uncover; record keeping of that period, especially for African-Americans, was spotty. What is known of the life of Green and other African Americans in similar roles at the time, however, indicates that her relationship with the Aunt Jemima brand was not the equal, beneficial partnership that these viral posts make it out to be.

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