The heirs of Anna S. Harrington, the woman portrayed as Aunt Jemima on Aunt Jemima pancakes products for approximately 80 years, have filed a class action alleging Quaker Oates intentionally withheld royalties associated with the use of her likeness:
"In their suit, D.W. Hunter and Larnell Evans say Quaker Oats representatives discovered their great-grandmother, Anna S. Harrington, making pancakes at the New York State Fair in 1935.
Harrington portrayed the character in commercials and other public appearances for 15 years.
The suit says Quaker Oats used Harrington's pancake recipes and trademarked her likeness as the character 'Aunt Jemima' in 1937.
The great-grandsons say Quaker Oats exploited Harrington with the intent of not paying royalties toward her estate after her death in 1955. They claim the companies conspired not to acknowledge Harrington's status as an employee of Quaker Oats by saying they could not find any employment records or images of her. But they say, Quaker Oats had her image deposited with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
Harrington's family, according to the complaint, filed the suit after it was able to obtain a death certificate that listed Quaker Oats as Harrington's employer." (link).
The suit also alleges that Quaker Oates wrongfully took Harrington's pancake recipes and racially discriminated against her and her family. Plaintiffs seek $2 billion in damages.