Friday, February 1, 2008

Shockers in History

Aunt Jemima was not always the woman we know and love today.

If you grew up in the 1980s (when families were too busy to make pancakes from scratch but could not yet fathom an invention as practical as the frozen Eggo waffle), then you remember her with a bandana. My private Internet investigative skills have led me to stumble onto a few more discoveries.

Before then she actually weighed a little more too.

Also, she used to be a man.

It was Danny Glover's first gig.

This is neither the time nor the place to point out that butter never goes on AFTER syrup (and most certainly not in a tiny, unspreadable square), so I will leave that for another blog and when I am less hungry, i.e. when the need to make pancakes is not blinding me.    I would, however, like to address a disturbing piece of information that has surfaced.

In an excerpt from a blog by Moss Kendrix:

Aunt Jemima was created at the end of the 1880s in Missouri, when Chris L. Rutt and Charles G. Underwood invented an instant pancake flour. Rutt created the trademark after a visit to the theater in 1889, where he saw minstrels in black face, aprons, and red bandanas performing a tune called, "Old Aunt Jemima." The song, very popular in its day, inspired Rutt to use the same image as the company logo.

Assuming that this is true, that Aunt Jemima is not a person at all, and that I have been telling rumors about Mrs. Butterworth to an imaginary confidante, then I would like to call her visual change into question. First of all, I have never heard of any chef that loses weight over time. Secondly, I don't know anyone whose aunt has hair like Mary Jenkins from 227. Marla Gibbs doesn't even wear that wig anymore. The bandana is fine. I wear bandanas. It's the name that needs work. People stopped naming their children Jemima right around the time they stopped bustin' up chiffarobes.

As for her race...well, I don't know any race or culture that should claim to be pancake experts. The Chinese make them too savory, the Indian too airy, the French too flat. Change her into an innocuous piece of fruit, call her Aunt Wanda and tell her to get it together, Baby!

Little known fact, the shampoo Phytojoba

was originally called Fight a Hobo.

Learn more about our black commercial icons on Moss Kendrix's blog here.


thisisntjimmy said...

In a research class I taught last semester, a student did a research project that compared the Mammy caricature with Tyler Perry's movies... I forget her hypothesis, but I believe it had something to do with inadvertently promoting racism.

Abbi said...

Sounds like someone is jealous of T. Perry's success. This student's name wouldn't happen to have been Robin Williams, would it?!

thisisntjimmy said...

How did you know?!! I think the paper had a co-writer... something Hoffman... or was it Tootsie something...? I forget.