In the late 1800s, Aunt Jemima wasn’t a person, but a popular “mammy” stereotype (or what many consider the female version of the “Uncle Tom” caricature).
The original character logo was a heavyset, dark-skinned woman with a bright smile and a scarf over her head. But by 1890, the R. T. Davis Milling Company decided to bring this character to life. They hired Nancy Green, a Black woman who looked quite a bit like the character of Aunt Jemima, to be the brand’s new spokesperson.
Before she was dubbed the “Pancake Queen,” Nancy was born into slavery in Montgomery County, Ky. She grew up to become a talented cook, storyteller, and activist who fought against poverty. But it wasn’t until she turned 56 that she got recruited for Aunt Jemima. She became the first living trademark in the advertising world, and while the recipe that she advertised was not her own, she continued to portray the character until she died in 1923.