BLACK FACES ON PRODUCTS DURING JIM CROW ERA
It is nearly impossible to have grown up in America and not be familiar with Aunt Jemima pancake mix, Uncle Ben's rice, chef Rastus Cream of Wheat and Uncle Remus syrup. However, when thinking of these products, people often associate a product to a person. Before these individuals came to be American icons, an initial interest needed to be established. They all became a food, that became a product, which became one of the most recognizable figures in history.
The inspiration for Aunt Jemima came specifically from the song “Old Aunt Jemima” written by a black performer named Billy Kersands in 1875. It was a staple of the minstrel circuit. The song was based on a song sung by slave hands. “Old Aunt Jemima” was performed by men in blackface. One of the men depicted Aunt Jemima — a Slave Mammy of the Plantation South.
Since 1946, Uncle Ben's products have carried the image of an elderly African-American man dressed in a bow tie, said to have been a Chicago maître d'hôtel named Frank Brown. According to Mars, Uncle Ben was an African-American rice grower known for the quality of his rice. Gordon L. Harwell, an entrepreneur who had supplied rice to the armed forces in World War II, chose the name Uncle Ben's as a means to expand his marketing efforts to the general public. "Uncle" was a common appellation used in the Southern United States to refer to older male black slaves or servants.
Uncle Remus Brand Syrup was sold during the first half of the twentieth century; in the early twenty-first century B and G Foods sells Brer Rabbit Syrup and Brer Rabbit Molasses. ... Rudyard Kipling said that when he was fifteen, in 1881, the Uncle Remus stories ran like wild fire through his English public school.
Frank L. White (c. 1867 – February 15, 1938) was a professional chef best known as the model for the fictional breakfast chef (often identified as "Rastus") still featured on the boxes of, and advertising for, Cream of Wheat breakfast cereal. A native of Barbados, he immigrated to the U.S. in 1875, where he became a citizen in 1890. He was working as a master chef at a Chicago restaurant at the time he was photographed for the cereal box in 1900.
The parody of white minstrels jumped from the minstrel stage to food products — where white actors portraying black characters and drew tens of millions of listeners. The Black Aunts and uncles on food products was a continuation of these memorable events that white Americans flocked to by remembering the characters. Therefore Commercial advertisers denigrated blackness to sell everything from tobacco to molasses to breakfast cereal.