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Great-Grandson of ‘Aunt Jemima’ Calls Attempt To Abandon Brand A Great ‘Injustice’

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Aunt Jemima

Several descendants of women who played “Aunt Jemima” are speaking out against the Quaker Oats food company’s decision to rebrand its Aunt Jemima breakfast line.

According to The Blaze, Larnell Evans Sr. believes Quaker Oats, which owns the brand, is trying to rewrite history. Quaker Oats announced last week that it will rename and rebrand the line due to the “racial stereotypes” it portrays.


“This is an injustice for me and my family. This is part of my history, sir,” Evans said. “The racism they talk about, using images from slavery, that comes from the other side — white people.”

“This company profits off images of our slavery. And their answer is to erase my great-grandmother’s history. A Black female,” Evans added. “It hurts.”

Evans’ great-grandmother, Anna Short Harrington, replaced the original Aunt Jemima, Nancy Green, a former enslaved woman, as the face of the Aunt Jemima brand in the early 1920s.

“She worked for that Quaker Oats for 20 years. She traveled all the way around the United States and Canada making pancakes as Aunt Jemima for them,” Evans explained.

“This woman served all those people, and it was after slavery. She worked as Aunt Jemima. That was her job,” he continued. “How do you think I feel as a Black man sitting here telling you about my family history they’re trying to erase?”

Evans is not the only descendant of a woman who played Aunt Jemima that was upset by the news. According to a New York Post article, Vera Harris said her family takes pride in Quaker Oats scouting her second cousin Lillian Richard to be a representative of the brand in 1925.

Harris added Richard worked for the company for 23 years, traveling the U.S. as Aunt Jemima to serve pancakes until she had a stroke.

“She was considered a hero in [her hometown of] Hawkins, and we are proud of that. We do not want that history erased,” Harris told the Post. “She made an honest living out of it for a number of years. She toured around Texas,” Harris added, noting there “wasn’t a lot of jobs, especially for Black women back in that time.”

The news of the change by Quaker Oats has led to other brands, including Uncle Ben’s Rice, to review changing their names.

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One pandemic, two recoveries: New Yorkers are three times more likely to be jobless than Nebraskans

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It’s going to take a long time to get out of this economic mess, but we’re making progress: Since the end of April, the economy has added more than 10 million jobs and the unemployment rate has fallen from its peak of 14.7% to 8.4%.

But that national recovery is unequal. Employment in some states is back to pre-pandemic levels, while others are at mass joblessness levels surpassing the 2007-09 Great Recession.

When the pandemic hit, the jobless rate in Nebraska soared from 4% in March to 8.7% in April. But the state’s nearly fully reopened economy has helped push the jobless rate back to 4% as of August.

The picture in New York, the epicenter of the pandemic in the spring, is far less rosy. It saw its jobless rate climb from 4.1% in March to a staggering 15.3% by April. It has since improved to 12.5% in August—a figure that is still above the U.S. peak of 8.9% jobless rate during the Great Recession era.

How can a New Yorker be three times more likely to be jobless than a Nebraskan?

States like Nebraska that are more rural and haven’t been as hard hit by the pandemic have almost fully reopened. Earlier this month Nebraska allowed outdoor gatherings to reopen at 100%, including sports stadiums and fairgrounds. And places like bars and tattoo parlors were reopened weeks ago.

Northeast states like New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut were hit hard by the virus in the spring and are reopening businesses at much slower rates. Case in point: Indoor dinning in New York City doesn’t start back until September 30, and that’s only at 25% capacity. That cautious approach explains why New York’s jobless rate remains so high.

While New York leads the nation at 33,092 lives lost to the pandemic, its case load and deaths are plummeting, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Only .9% of COVID-19 tests in New York are coming back positive compared to over 50% at one point in April. Nebraska has far fewer COVID-19 deaths (452), however, its positive rate is 12.6%—which is above the 10% threshold that adds incoming travelers to New York’s 14-day quarantine.

And joblessness in New York is also elevated by its large leisure and hospitality concentration. That sector was smashed by the pandemic, and has yet to rebound. Leisure and hospitality jobs in New York City alone are still down 48%. And that’s also why joblessness is still so high in tourism heavy California (11.4%), Hawaii (12.5%), and Nevada (13.2%).

While Florida also has a massive tourism industry, its jobless rate is only 7.4% in August which can be chalked up to a more aggressive reopening plan than states like Nevada or New York.

More must-read finance coverage from Fortune:

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