Green was born into slavery on March 4, 1834, near Mount Sterling in Montgomery County, Kentucky. She was hired in 1890 by the R.T. Davis Milling Company in St. Joseph, Missouri, to represent "Aunt Jemima", an advertising character named after a song from a minstrel show. Davis Milling had recently acquired the formula to a ready-mixed, self-rising pancake flour from St. Joseph Gazette editor Chris L. Rutt and Charles Underwood and were looking to employ an African-American woman as a Mammy archetype to promote their new product. In 1893 Green was introduced as Aunt Jemima at the World's Columbian Exposition held in Chicago, where it was her job to operate a pancake-cooking display. Her amicable personality and talent as a cook for the Walker family, whose children grew up to become Chicago Circuit Judge Charles M. Walker and Dr. Samuel Walker. helped establish a successful showing of the product, for which she received a medal and certificate from the Expo officials. After the Expo, Green was offered a lifetime contract to adopt the Aunt Jemima moniker and promote the pancake mix. This marked the beginning of a major promotional push by the company that included thousands of personal appearances and Aunt Jemima merchandising. Nancy Green maintained her job with Davis Milling (which was renamed Aunt Jemima Mills Company in 1914) until her death in 1923; she was still working as Aunt Jemima at the time. A lawsuit claims that Nancy Green's heirs as well as other heirs from the other women used as Aunt Jemima models deserve $2 billion and a share of future revenue from the sales of popular demand. The federal lawsuit was filed in Chicago by another model (Anna Short Harrington)'s grandsons who claim that she and Green were the roots in creating the recipe for the nation's first self-proclaimed pancake mix. It also states that Green was the originator and came up with the idea of adding powdered milk for extra flavor in the pancakes. Quaker Oats, who is the current owner of the brand, says this image of Aunt Jemima was in fact fake and never real claiming that there are no trace of contracts between the women who displayed as Aunt Jemima models and their bosses.
Church organizing and philanthropy
Green was one of the organizers of the Olivet Baptist Church. Her career allowed Green the financial freedom to become an activist and engage in antipoverty programs. She was one of the first African-American missionary workers. She used her stature as a spokesperson to become a leading advocate against poverty and in favor of equal rights for individuals in Chicago.
Green died on August 30, 1923, in Chicago when a car collided with a truck and flipped over onto the sidewalk where she was standing. She is buried in the northeast quadrant of Chicago's Oak Woods Cemetery. The famous image of Aunt Jemima was based on the real image of Nancy Green, who was known as a magnificent cook, an attractive woman of outgoing nature and friendly personality, an original painting of which sold for $9,030 at MastroNet. The painting was rendered by A. B. Frost, who is now well known as one of the great illustrators of the Golden Age of American Illustration.
Other actress portraying Aunt Jemima:
- "Death Notices". Chicago Daily Tribune. August 31, 1923. p. 10.
- "Nancy Green, the Original "Aunt Jemima"". The African American Registry. 2005. Retrieved 2007-07-19.
- Tom Eblen. "New location fitting for black history museum", Lexington Herald-Leader, February 8, 2012. Retrieved August 8, 2013.
- This is disputed, some sources say 1893
- Manning, Maurice M. (1998). Slave in a Box: The Strange Career of Aunt Jemima. University of Virginia Press. ISBN 0813918111.
- A History of Northwest Missouri edited by Walter Williams, published by The Lewis Publishing Company, 1915
- Pancake flap: Aunt Jemima heirs seek dough
- "'Aunt Jemima' of Pancake Fame is Killed by Auto". Chicago Daily Tribune. September 4, 1923. p. 13.
- Roberts, Diane (1994). The Myth of Aunt Jemima: Representations of Race and Region. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-04918-0.
- The Woman Behind Aunt Jemima /scoop.diamondgalleries.com/Home/4/1/73/1016?articleID=42091
- Nancy Green at Find a Grave
- Nancy Green this entry includes information about Green's relatives at Find a Grave