Did You Know Former Slave Nancy Green A.K.A. Aunt Jemima Was the First Corporate Spokesperson?

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Yolanda Spivey talks about the Aunt Jemima pancake brand.


Reported by Yolanda Spivey

For over a century , her face has graced the covers on millions of pancake mix boxes—she is famously known as Aunt Jemima.  Nancy Green aka Aunt Jemima, was born on November 17, 1834 in Montgomery County, Kentucky.  Although she was born a slave, she went on to become the first black corporate model in the United States.

Here are 5 known things you may not have known about Nancy Green and the Aunt Jemima brand:

The Creators– A newspaper man by the name of Chris Rutt and his partner Charles Underwood developed an idea to package self-rising pancake flour after buying the Pearl Milling Company.  They needed an image for their product, and the idea came to Rutt when he attended a vaudeville show in 1889.  During his visit, he heard a song named “Aunt Jemima” performed by a blackface performer who was wearing an apron and bandana.  Hence, Aunt Jemima’s image was born. They eventually sold the self-rising pancake formula to R.
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T. Milling Company soon afterward.

Spokes Model Status– Nancy Green was a cook in Chicago when she was discovered by the R.T. Davis Milling Company.  She was 56 years old when she became the advertising world’s first living trademark and spokes model.  She signed over the life rights of her image to The Davis Milling Company.

Pancake Queen– Nancy Green was known as the Pancake Queen due to aggressive advertising by the R.T. Davis Milling Company.  She traveled all over the United States, telling stories with her warm personality while exhibiting pancakes at tradeshows.  Her booth was so popular that policemen were usually assigned to keep her safe and to control the crowds.

Breaking Barriers– The sale of flour went up when Aunt Jemima debuted in 1893. She also had a lifetime job until her death.  Unfortunately on September 23, 1923, Nancy Green died in a car crash in Chicago.

Philanthropy– Nancy Green’s advertising contract gave her financial stability.  In her spare time, she was an activist and was outspoken against poverty.