In 1889, Aunt Jemima crossed from the footlights to the grocery store, where she’s been a fixture for 131 years. On the eve of her departure, we give you the dark history of this American icon – and the stories of a few women who made her come alive.
Aunt Jemima was not a real woman nor did she represent reality. She was the embodiment of a post-civil war, overly romanticized stereotype designed to make (white) people feel nostalgia for the antebellum South…and in this case, she was also used to sell pancake mix.
We’ll give you the history of the Aunt Jemima brand, its roots in minstrel shows, it’s launch at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, and the path of Nancy Green and others hired to play the character of Aunt Jemima. They played her so well, that some people still think that Jemima was a real formerly enslaved woman who pulled herself out of poverty by selling her pancake mix. Some people even think that the Mammy character of stage, screen, and marketing campaign is an accurate portrayal of a family servant.
Some people are very, very wrong.
Time Travel With The History Chicks
The Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia at Ferris State University in Grand Rapids, Michigan has amassed a collection of racist artifacts from Reconstruction to modern-day including a collection of Mammies from advertising pieces to fishing lures and an explanation of the Mammy myth.
The history of Olivet Baptist Church, Chicago–Nancy Green’s church.
If you love to nerd out over legal documents, here’s Aunt Jemima Mills Co v. Rigney and Co.
Can we ever get enough information about the 1893 World’s Fair? No, we can not. Here’s a nice long article about the terrible treatment of Black Americans at our favorite fair (although we do NOT like this part one bit!)
If you would like to help put the headstone on Nancy Green’s grave, here is the fundraiser!
The original REAL, gen-u-INE article, Aunt Jemima syrup bottle and the Betwitched ad for it.
We have Pinterest boards for every episode including this one: Aunt Jemima
The Cakewalk dance!
Break song: Slow Cookin’ by Joe and the Spicey Pickles
End song: Character Assasin by Seconds Before
Used with special permission from iLicense