Six years ago, two men who say that they are relatives of the inspiration for Aunt Jemima sued the brand’s owner for $2 billion and a share of sales revenue over allegations that PepsiCo—the corporate owner of Quaker Oats – used the likeness of Anna Short Harrington without providing proper compensation.
The Daily Beast reported Monday that Larnell Evans Jr., and his nephew, Dannez Hunter—saw their case dismissed. The report said that the two represented themselves and Evans, the great-great-grandson of Harrington, told the website that the case wasn’t taken seriously.
Quaker Oats told the website in a statement that “Aunt Jemima was not a real person or based on one individual.” The company even questioned if the two were actually related to Harrington.
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“We had a family tree. We have all the death certificates. We have the obituaries. There’s no way that they can say, ‘Oh they’re not related,’” the Evans told the Beast. “I always knew she played Aunt Jemima. That’s just a given fact.”
The report comes shortly after Quaker Foods North America announced plans to rename the famous syrup and pancake mix. “We recognize Aunt Jemima’s origins are based on a racial stereotype,” Kristin Kroepfl told NBC News. “As we work to make progress toward racial equality through several initiatives, we also must take a hard look at our portfolio of brands and ensure they reflect our values and meet our consumers’ expectations.”
Riche Richardson, Cornell University professor, told the “TODAY” show, “Aunt Jemima is a retrograde image of Black womanhood on store shelves. It’s an image that harkens back to the antebellum plantation.”
The Beast’s report said that Harrington was a local celebrity in South Carolina and citied a children’s book at the time that said Quaker Oats tapped Harrington to play the character Aunt Jemima. She traveled and eventually owned two homes. The two said that the famed logo is even inspired by Harrington’s face, a claim Quaker Oats rejected. The report pointed out that Quaker Oats copyrighted the logo in 1936.
The Beast said that Harrington’s official role at the company is unclear. The company reportedly told the men that it could not find contracts or any documentation about her official role there.