The family of Anna Short Harrington, the woman who was the inspiration for much of the Aunt Jemima imagery, has filed a lawsuit against Pepsi Co. and its subsidiary the Quaker Oats Co., along with the Pinnacle Foods Group and the Hillshire Brands Co. D.W. Hunter, Harrington’s great-grandson, filed the class action lawsuit on behalf of all of Harrington’s great-grandchildren. He is seeking $2 billion along with punitive damages, reports the Chicago Tribune.
Harrington was selected as “Aunt Jemima” in 1937, purportedly because of her pancake recipe, which Quaker Oats later produced for the mass market.
The family claims that Quaker Oats worked to deny Harrington “equitable fair share of royalties,” the Tribune notes. Further, they claim that racism played a role in the exploitation of Harrington.
From the Tribune:
The suit further alleges a racial element to the exploitation of Harrington and the other women who portrayed Aunt Jemima, going so far as to accuse the company of theft in procuring 64 original formulas and 22 menus from Harrington. It further alleges that Harrington was dissuaded from using a lawyer, exploiting her lack of education and age, so that the company could not pay her a percentage of sales from her recipes.
Read more at the Chicago Tribune.