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Face Behind Aunt Jemima Logo Has Unique Connection To Morristown History

The face Aunt Jemima Syrup, Ethel Ernestine Harper, has a unique connection to Morristown history.
The face Aunt Jemima Syrup, Ethel Ernestine Harper, has a unique connection to Morristown history. Photo Credit: Mike Mozart (Flickr)

The longtime brand image of Aunt Jemima syrup may have been retired by parent company Quaker Oats -- but the woman depicted in the image lives on through her legend as Morristown’s first teacher of black history.

The decision to retire the image comes as Quaker admitted Wednesday that it had been “based on a racial stereotype,” DailyRecord reports.

The company tried to alter the image by including a composite drawing; however, the last real woman to appear as the brand image is known for teaching black history in Morristown — her adopted hometown.

Born in Alabama in 1903, Ethel Ernestine Harper had an incredibly sharp and inquisitive mind, graduating from college at just 17 years of age, her obituary says.

Before moving to New York to follow her dreams of a career in music, Harper was employed as a teacher and served as president of the Birmingham City Federation of Colored Women's Clubs.

Harper was cast for the role of Aunt Jemima after she won an audition in 1950 due to her credits with Broadway and the Apollo Theater.

Harper even played the role of Aunt Jemima during visits to schools, hospitals and other public events.

Harper played Aunt Jemima until the company replaced the image with a composite in 1958. She then moved to Morristown and became known as the town’s first teacher of black history.

In addition to putting together a Meals on Wheels Program, Harper continued to teach at adult, private and parochial schools such as the Parsippany Adult School, the Morristown Adult School, the Assumption School in Morristown and the Fairleigh Dickinson University in Madison.

Harper is also known for hosting her own radio program, “Youth Speaks Out; Age Speaks Out; Are You Listening?” which aired on Saturdays on WMTR, a radio station in Morristown.

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