WE honor Mrs. Nancy Green (the Original Aunt Jemima), and WE also recognize the many Black women who worked as cooks, restaurant owners, caregivers and heroic figures. This website will give a salute to the most deserving Black Women who have fed, nursed and acted as agents of change. Food and LOVE is central to our theme to celebrate their contributions to global communities..
ReIMAGINE Aunt Jemima ….. Exhibit opens Friday April 23 – July 9, 2021 at Harsh Library
This exhibition of photographs, documents, artifacts, and memorabilia is a chronicle of two Chicago Black women who represented the Davis Milling Company and the Quaker Oats Company as brand ambassadors. Both Nancy Green (1834-1923) and Edith Wilson (1896-1981) were talented singers and storytellers. Both women were born in Kentucky and each shared an incredible journey as promoters and cooks to boost pancake product sales.
Nancy Green was born enslaved on March 4, 1834 in Mt. Sterling, Kentucky. Very little is known about her life before she arrived in Chicago. Mrs. Green lived at 4543 South Indiana Ave. at the time of her death. Tragically, she was killed by an automobile on August 30, 1923. Mrs. Green is noted as a member of Olivet Baptist Church. Olivet Baptist Church was established by free Blacks in Chicago on April 6, 1850.
Bronzeville Historical Society led an effort to place a headstone on the grave of Mrs. Nancy Green. On September 5, 2020 a virtual remembrance was attended by family members, admirers and Chicago cultural keepers to pay tribute to a remarkably legendary woman in history. Quaker Oats/ PepsiCo removed the smiling image of a Black woman and the Aunt Jemima brand from its products in June 2020.
A collection of “Aunt Jemima” photos, memorabilia, newspaper accounts and scholarly research was presented to Vivian G. Harsh Research Library from twins Val Williams and Aaron Williams. The collection marks
the first contribution provided by 14 year old students who won the prized Chicago History Fair award in 2020. In addition, their “Pancakes, Anyone” exhibit was acknowledged by the Daughter of the Revolutionary War for its outstanding contribution to understanding history.
Edith WilsonWilson was born Edith Goodall on September 2, 1896, in Louisville, Kentucky. After performing locally in her youth and at Louisville’s Park Theater, Wilson moved to Chicago and worked in local cabarets and clubs in 1921. In this period, she formed a musical trio with siblings Lena Wilson and Danny Wilson. Edith was married to Danny Wilson from 1921 until his death in 1928.
Wilson became well known for her song, “He May Be Your Man (But He Comes to See Me Sometimes),” but her first recording was “Nervous Blues,” which she recorded with Johnny Dunn’s Jazz Hounds in 1921 for Columbia Records.
Around 1948, Wilson was hired by the Quaker Oats Company to portray the character of Aunt Jemima, a cook who was featured on the boxes of the company’s pancake mixes. Wilson referred to herself frequently as the “last Aunt Jemima” but she was actually one of at least four women who represented the character for Quaker Oats in the 1950s and 1960s.
Wilson represented the company on the radio (where she could be heard on either a weekly or thrice-weekly radio program on ABC), was seen in television appearances, and in-person for civic, charity, and service clubs across the country. Throughout this period, the NAACP and other civil rights organizations campaigned against racist portrayals of African-American life. These groups specifically targeted the “Aunt Jemima” character and called for an end to it. Following such pressure, Quaker Oats ended local appearances of Aunt Jemima in 1965 and subsequently ended Wilson’s employment in 1966. Wilson died 1981 at Michael Reese Hospital in Chicago.
The Edith Wilson Collection was donated by Bennett Johnson, March 1996. Johnson was the director of Path Press. At his Path Press office, he received the papers as a gift from Wilson’s grandson, with the hope that they might assist someone in writing a book about Edith Wilson. https://www.chipublib.org/fa-edith-wilson-papers/
Bronzeville / Black Chicagoan Historical Society is a 501 C (3) not for profit organization formed in 1999 to provide information, education, and participation in the preservation of the history and heritage of Blacks who live or have lived in Chicago. The society was organized due to the overwhelming concern about diminishing historical sites in African American communities, pride in the cultural diversities of Blacks in Chicago, and the limited historical resources immediately available to classrooms on African Americans who helped shape the city of Chicago and America. (312) 428-8033 www.bronzevillehistoricalsociety.wordpress.com
The Special Negro Collection was renamed the Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History and Literature. The collection was moved from the George Hall Branch Library to the newly constructed Carter G. Woodson Regional Library in 1975. The Harsh Collection is the largest African American history and literature collection in the Midwest. The collection of Afro American history and literature documents the Black experience with a strong focus on Chicago. Areas of interest include memorabilia, art, prints, manuscripts, video, genealogical resources and religious institution documents. Services include interaction and collaboration with a wide range of educational and cultural organizations and institutions. www.chipublib.org Visits to archives by appointments. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org (312) 745-2080
Visit also http://www.bronzevillehistoricalsociety.wordpress.com to attend the Zoom opening of the ReIMAGINE Aunt Jemima exhibit on Friday, April 23, 2021 at 1:00 PM. Free to the public. Visitors can view the exhibition during library hours April 24 – July 9, 2021. Check Harsh Collection archives website for hours. blib.org Visits to archives by appointments. E-mail: email@example.com (312) 745-2080
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