I’ve got this thing for Aunt Jemima.
Long before Oprah, Aunt Jemima was the first Black female icon to gain welcome entrance into homes across America, both Black and White.
This dates back to the late 1800’s.
I acknowledge and disavow the negative racial stereotypes associated with the early incarnations of Aunt Jemima.
Admittedly, my fascination has more to do with the power of the brand – Aunt Jemima empowered and inspired consumers, making them believe that they could capture “her special magic” simply by adding wet ingredients to a dry mix.
There are three Aunt Jemima print ads, circa 1943, on my kitchen wall.
They remind me, daily, that as advertisers, we have a responsibility to help craft responsible messages that are authentic, relevant, engaging and absent of offensive and derogatory stereotypes.
For additional reading on the subject, check out —
Slave in a Box: The Strange Career of Aunt Jemima by M.M. Manning
The Grace of Silence, A Memoir by Michele Norris, whose grandmother portrayed Aunt Jemima, selling pancake mix to midwest housewives
Black Characters in Search of Reality, A New York Times Opinion by Brent Staples