Aunt Jemima rebranding rankles family of some women who portrayed her, who say they're being erased

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The Quaker Oats Company have given Aunt Jemima a new name and new look, but the families of some of the women who portrayed her over the years feel they are being erased.

"It's a gross miscarriage of justice," said Dannez Hunter, great grandson of Anna Short Harrington. "Let's put it in context of what it really actually is, a propaganda campaign."

RELATED: Aunt Jemima brand gets a new name: Pearl Milling Company

The relatives are upset that the brand has been renamed Pearl Milling Company, discontinuing the Aunt Jemima brand. Hunter, who said both his great grandmother and his grandmother portrayed the fictional character for the company, said the move not only cheats his family out of earnings both women are due, but also erases them from history. He's pursuing litigation.

"They are engaged in a propaganda campaign to steal not only the royalties from my family, but change the name," he said.

In an announcement this week PepsiCo, who owns the Quaker Oats Company as well as the pancake mix and syrup line, formally began the rebranding. The company said the new name comes from the Missouri milling company that pioneered self-rising pancake mix used in the iconic brand, which is more than 100 years old.

Nancy Green, a former slave, is believed to be the first woman hired to portray Aunt Jemima. Sherry Williams of the Bronzeville Historical Society helped to secure a headstone for Green, who is buried here in Chicago.

"So removing the brand, to me, was removing that one opportunity we could have had to have expanded conversations about just how are women seen in imagery," Williams said.

Experts say Quaker Oats control more than 30% of the global breakfast market, with annual revenues of around $1 billion.

According to Northwestern University Kellogg School of Business Management professor Dr. Nicholas Pearce, even though the company may pledge to support HBCUs, Black women and girls, and the community, there are better ways to do so.

"I don't think the answer is just to erase history," Pearce said. "This is an opportunity to acknowledge an evolution and tell the full story."
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