Relatives of the woman who became "Aunt Jemima" are suing Pepsi and Quaker Oats for more than $2 billion, accusing those and other brands of denying that their great grandmother was once a Quaker Oats employee.
The Chicago Tribune reports that D.W. Hunter is filing a class-action lawsuit against Pepsi, Quaker Oats, Pinnacle Foods and Hillshire Brands. Hunter is filing the suit on behalf of all of the great grandchildren of Anna Short Harrington, who took on the pre-existing character of Aunt Jemima in 1935.
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Hunter alleges that 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.
The defendants allegedly received a death certificate for Harrington that listed Quaker Oats as her employer, despite the company's reported denial of said employment.
The suit, which was filed Aug. 5 in Chicago, also alleges that Harrington was "dissuaded from using a lawyer, exploiting her lack of education and age, so that the company could not pay her a percentage of sales from her recipes."
In a statement to The Tribune, Quaker Oats didn't reference the lawsuit:
People associate The Aunt Jemima Brand with warmth, hospitality and comfort, and we stand by this heritage as well as the ways in which we do business."