Nancy Green was born a slave in Kentucky. Once freed, she became an activist, and one of the organizers of the Olivet Baptist Church. She also was a great cook, with a great personality.
She became a model, becoming the first black woman to secure a contract to represent a company’s product and become its spokesperson. She was offered a lifetime contract for her image, and her appearances.
With the considerable money she made, and utilizing her fame and stature in Chicago, she was able to become one of the first African-American missionary workers and devoted time to anti-poverty programs to benefit black and white alike, and to work for equal rights.
And this week, the “woke children” of America decided to banish Nancy Green. It seems as if everyone has piled on. Even corporate America. Why, you ask? Because Nancy Green was Aunt Jemima.
Now you can look on this as an opportunity to be insulted by images of a mammy from the South, and justify hatred due to her image calling up dark times from the past. You can be so repulsed by her face looking at you from your kitchen table, and be so self-righteously disgusted that she represents exploitation, that you banish her forever. You could do that.
I see something different. I see a hero. She came from unfortunate beginnings, and when freed to pursue life on her terms, she turned that negative into a huge positive in her anti-poverty programs, the example she set, the success she achieved, and the legacy she left. Personally, I would want little children at my table to look at her, and for me to tell her story to them. I doubt they would see a former slave. I believe–if I told the story to the young–that they would see a woman who rose above the worst of it, who dreamed, and who succeeded, and who carried her success forward into posterity.
You see, Nancy Green was a living embodiment of Emerson’s “in every adversity lies the seed of equal or greater benefit.”
Quaker Oats, you got it right in 1890. You got it wrong in 2020.
And, I ask all of the “woke” in this country, “just what have you created? Hatred, divisiveness, and less than shallow analysis?”
When I look at Aunt Jemima, I do not see a face that reinforces my so-called “white privilege.” I see a woman who made good. I plan to buy a bottle of pancake syrup, even though the current face is not the face of the woman who inspired the brand. I will photograph it, and put it in my folder of heroes.
Wake up, America!