Nancy Green was a storyteller, cook, activist, and the first of several African-American models hired to promote a corporate trademark known as “Aunt Jemima”.
Green was born into slavery on the 4th of March, 1834 in Kentucky. in 1890, she was hired by the R.T. Davis Milling Company in St. Joseph, Missouri, to represent an advertising character named after a song from a minstrel show, “Aunt Jemima”.
The company had recently acquired the formula to a ready-mixed, self-rising pancake flour from St. Joseph Gazette editor Chris L. Rutt and Charles Underwood and were looking to employ an African-American woman as a Mammy archetype to promote their new product.
Green was introduced as Aunt Jemima at the World’s Columbian Exposition held in Chicago in 1893. It was her job to operate a pancake-cooking display. Her amicable personality alongside her talent as a cook for the Walker family -whose children grew up to become Chicago Circuit Judge Charles M. Walker and Dr. Samuel Walker – made her viable for the position.
The duo helped to establish a successful showing of the product, for which she received a medal and certificate from the Expo officials. After the Expo, She was offered a lifetime contract to adopt the Aunt Jemima moniker and promote the pancake mix and this marked the beginning of a major promotional push by the company that included thousands of personal appearances and Aunt Jemima merchandising.
Nancy Green maintained her job with Davis Milling (which was renamed Aunt Jemima Mills Company in 1914) until her death in 1923. shye was still working as Aunt Jemima at the time when a lawsuit claims that her heirs, as well as other heirs from the other women used as Aunt Jemima models, deserve $2 billion and a share of future revenue from the sales of popular demand.
The federal lawsuit was filed in Chicago by another model – Anna Short Harrington’s grandsons – who claim that she and Green were the roots in creating the recipe for the nation’s first self-proclaimed pancake mix.
Also, it states that Green was the originator and came up with the idea of adding powdered milk for extra flavor in the pancakes. Quaker Oats, who is the current owner of the brand, says this image of Aunt Jemima was fake and claimed that there is no trace of contracts between the women who displayed as Aunt Jemima models and their bosses.
The suit was dismissed as the heirs failed to prove that they were related to the woman who posed as Aunt Jemima.
Green was one of the organizers of the Olivet Baptist Church. Her career gives her the financial freedom to become an activist and engage in antipoverty programs. She was one of the first African-American missionary workers.
She used her stature as a spokesperson to become a leading advocate against poverty and in favor of equal rights for individuals in Chicago.
Green died on the 30th of August 1923, in Chicago when a car collided with a truck and flipped over onto the sidewalk where she was standing.
She was buried in the northeast quadrant of Chicago’s Oak Woods Cemetery.
The famous image of Aunt Jemima was based on the real image of Nancy Green, who was known as a magnificent cook, an attractive woman of outgoing nature and friendly personality. An original painting of her rendered by A. B. Frost sold for $9,030 at MastroNet. The Painter is well known as one of the great illustrators of the Golden Age of American Illustration.