The heirs of Anna Short Harrington, the lady who became the Aunt Jemima character, represented by D.W. Hunter, have filed a lawsuit against PepsiCo, The Quaker Oats Company, Pinnacle Foods Group and The Hillshire Brands Company.
Hunter – the great grandson of Harrington – is seeking $2 billion, plus punitive damages to be determined at trial. He says the companies conspired to deny that Harrington had been an employee of Quaker Oats, all the while exploiting her image and recipes for profit, while refusing to pay an “equitable fair share of royalties” to her heirs for more than 60 years, reports the Chicago Tribune.
Harrington was chosen for the role because of her pancake recipe, which the company recreated to be sold in stores, but her family believes racial exploitation was involved in the deal.
They claim Harrington was talked out of using a lawyer — exploiting her lack of education so the company wouldn’t have to pay for her recipe.
Further, according to the Tribune, “the lawsuit cites Screen Actors Guild residuals and standard policies in the entertainment industry regarding revenue statements, which neither Harrington nor her heirs ever received. It wasn’t until they uncovered in 2013 that Quaker Oats had trademarked Harrington’s likeness and picture in 1937 that the family determined that they were owed royalties.”