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Family of woman who portrayed Aunt Jemima opposes move to change brand

 Aunt Jemima history has roots in East Texas.
Aunt Jemima history has roots in East Texas. (NBC15)
Published: Jun. 21, 2020 at 4:04 PM EDT
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FORNEY, Texas (KLTV) - An East Texas family is not happy about the ‘brand changing’ of a popular pancake syrup: Aunt Jemima.

The iconic “Aunt Jemima” has long-standing ties with the city of Hawkins, and a goodwill ambassador named “Lillian Richard.”

Living in Forney, Vera Harris is the family historian for the Richard family of Hawkins, and could hardly believe a big part of their family legacy, the “Aunt Jemima” brand, was about to be erased from supermarket shelves.

“A lot of people want it removed. We want the world to know that our cousin Lillian was one of the Aunt Jemima’s and she made an honest living. We would ask that you reconsider just wiping all that away. There wasn’t a lot of jobs, especially for black women back in that time. She was discovered by Quaker Oats to be their brand person,” Harris said.

Lillian Richard became a goodwill ambassador for Quaker Oats, and for decades, portrayed Aunt Jemima all over Texas.

“She made an honest living out of it for a number of years. She toured around Texas,” Harris said.

In the Fouke community just outside Hawkins is a historic marker dedicated to Lillian Richard, who is recognized as one of several women who portrayed Aunt Jemima.

And the family is proud of what she did.

“She was considered a hero in Hawkins, and we are proud of that. We do not want that history erased,” Harris said.

Harris said her family feels that activism has gone too far.

“I wish we would take a breath and not just get rid of everything. because good or bad, it is our history. Removing that wipes away a part of me. A part of each of us. We are proud of our cousin,” Harris said.

Lillian Richard died in 1956 after working 23 years for the Quaker Oats company.

Harris said she and the Richards family are also against the renaming of military bases because many of their relatives are veterans.

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