Lessons in Black History – Nancy Green (a.k.a. Aunt Jemima)

auntjemimaNancy Green – Born a slave in 1834, Green became one of the most famous black women of all time when she was chosen to be the model for Aunt Jemima, the character used to market pancake flour and syrup. The character of Aunt Jemima goes back to minstrel shows of the 1870s, and some historians speculate that the original Aunt Jemima was actually a man performing in drag and blackface. In 1888 the Pearl Milling Company began marketing pancake mix, and appropriated the minstrel show character as their company mascot. A year later, the company was bought by R.T. Davis Milling Company, which hired former slave Nancy Green to pose as Aunt Jemima. Green who portrayed the character in a variety of ads and even made live appearances, playing the role until 1923, when she was killed after being run over by a car. Although the character of Aunt Jemima is steeped in age-old stereotypes, Green was well compensated for her work, and became an outspoken advocate in the fight against poverty.

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