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Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher June 23, 2020

‘Aunt Jemima’ in chains is modern art, not old picture

If Your Time is short

  • A white artist known for social commentary photographed herself as Aunt Jemima.

When the company that makes Aunt Jemima products announced it would stop using that created name and image, in the wake of the Minneapolis police death of George Floyd, social media posts criticizing the decision claimed that the first Aunt Jemima model died a millionaire.

We rated that claim False. Nancy Green, a Kentucky native and former slave, might have attained middle-class status in Chicago. But we found no evidence she was a millionaire when she passed away in 1923.

Quaker Oats said it made its decision because the 130-year-old brand was based on a racial stereotype. Now comes a claim, in the form of two images, that an unidentified Aunt Jemima model worked while in chains.

One image appears to be a photograph of a woman holding a plate of pancakes with one of her ankles chained to the leg of a kitchen table. The second image appears to be the same photo, but cropped so that the woman’s legs are not visible.

The post, with grammatical errors and misspellings, says: 

"This is why this was a huge issue to change the brand/name most ppl didn’t understand. I don’t givea a dayum if her worth was $18 trillion her leg is chained to a fkin table. Yet when you try to find this pic you only see the picture on your right #Aunt Jemima"

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

The photo in question is years, not decades old. And it’s not of anyone who portrayed Aunt Jemima officially. It is a self-portrait by Sally Stockhold, a white artist in Denver, portraying a version of Aunt Jemima in blackface.

Stockhold’s website says "Aunt Jemima — I laughed because they paid me," was published in 2008. It’s listed in a category called, "myselfportraits ode to icons and other absurdities."

A 2013 Denver art website described Stockhold’s work as "part stage, part social commentary, playful but never frivolous."

We rate the post False.

Update, June 30: We updated the description of Stockhold's artwork.

Our Sources

Facebook, post (archived here), June 22, 2020

PolitiFact, "There’s no proof ‘Aunt Jemima’ was a millionaire," June 22, 2020 

TruthOrFiction.com, "Is Original ‘Aunt Jemima’ Nancy Green Being ‘Erased’ by Political Correctness?", June 18, 2020

DenverArtMatters.com, "Sally Stockhold’s 3-lens Circus," March 30, 2013

Snopes, "Does Photo Show Aunt Jemima Chained to a Table?", June 23, 2020

SallyStockholdPhotography.com, "Aunt Jemima — I laughed because they paid me," accessed June 23, 2020

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‘Aunt Jemima’ in chains is modern art, not old picture

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