A Syracuse resident who portrayed Aunt Jemima, and the character's racist story.

A Syracuse resident who portrayed Aunt Jemima, and the character's racist story.
Ana Short Harrington received notoriety in 1955 for her role as Aunt Jemima for the Quaker Oats before being buried in 1955, buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Syracuse. He moved to Nedro, New York, South Carolina in the 1920s. Harrington worked as a servant to a white family in the area and then as a cook for the Syracuse University fraternity.

It was a very primary occupation at the time, especially for African American women, "said Robert Serring, history curator of the Onondaga Historical Association," in any role of domestic service, it was a maid, a maid, Be a cook, definitely. It was one of the main avenues of employment for black women, and also for black men. This would be one of the few areas where they could operate in the northern cities, where segregation was clearly prevalent. "

As the story progresses, members of the SU fraternity applaud Harrington's pancakes. This inspired him to showcase his pancake recipe at the New York State Fair. It was there that a representative of the Quaker Oats hired her to portray Aunt Jemima.

"He became a national figure, flying through Quaker Oats, giving pancake demos around the country," Sering said.

Harrington gained fame and fortune while working as Mousie Jemima, and was probably a prominent figure in the Syracuse black community at the time. Harrington owned a 22-room house on Monroe Avenue, which he operated as a boarding house. His house, along with many others in the city's fifteenth ward, would be lost to urban renewal and the construction of Interstate 81 in the 1960s.

Quaker Oats announced on Wednesday that they would remove Aunt Jemima's image and brand from their products. The character Harrington played had a racist origin, influenced by the "mummy" characters in Blackface's troubled show in the late 19th century.

"The mummy's character in the Woodville and Blackface Troubledour show is actually rooted in," Sering said, "Some scholars point to the fact that it was created by whites to idealize the idea of ​​slavery. It's very Black is a woman. Happily, this mother figure who is very excited to dedicate her life to the care of white children. The idea that many American slavery scholars point to this character, perhaps never exists. Hote, but she becomes a popular figure. "

The first person to play the role of Aunt Jemima was Nancy Green, who was born into slavery in the early 1800s. According to historians, a man who at the time helped direct Quaker Oats was impressed by watching a blackface trickleboard show, the ability to use the "mom" image for marketing purposes by watching. Quaker Oats began producing Aunt Jemima's Pancake Mix in the 1880s: Greene would be hired to play Aunt Jemima.

"This character should be familiar to the American public in Woodville and Blackface's troubled show, so they would know that she would be a really dear person, so they capitalized on that," Sering said.

Part of Harrington's merchantability to become Aunt Jemima after Green's death was that he had a southern accent as a South Carolina native.

"Quaker Oats took advantage of it because it fit into the original" Mummy "character Aunt Jemima was based on," Seering said.

Riche Richardson is Associate Professor of African American Literature at Cornell University. In 2015, he wrote an op-ed in the New York Times stating why images like Aunt Jemima should be removed.

Dr. Richardson stated, "This is an image of black femininity, as I have said in part of my work, in the constant attack on the black maternal body during slavery," Dr. "His qualities and characteristics include a carer in particular," Richardson said. For the children of his white master and lover, while he is more distant or indifferent to taking care of his children. Therefore, historically, these paintings are part of the melancholy vision of the Old South that sums up the stereotypes of slavery. "

Aunt Jemima is part of a wider debate over the location of images and symbols that remain in our current culture, including statues of historical figures ranging from food brands to sports teams. Dr. According to Richardson, understanding history and pain is important.

Richardson said, "It's not about these photos in private, but about their public impact. And the question of whether they relate to public spaces is not about it."

Quaker Oats has announced that Aunt Jemima's images and branding will be removed from all products by the end of the year.

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