It was clearly racist. Clearly.
LEWISTON — The Aunt Jemima brand will soon be gone, nixed by Quaker Oats over its racist origins. But a record of her visit to Lewiston 65 years ago still exists in the archives of the Lewiston Tribune, a testament to a time when such stereotypes were widely accepted, and even celebrated.
The occasion was the joint National Armed Forces Day-Campfire Girls parade down Main Street on May 21, 1955, in support of a fund drive for a new Campfire Girls camp on Lake Coeur d’Alene. Police closed the road to traffic from First to 19th streets. National Guard soldiers marched, bands played, floats paraded, politicians preened and paradegoers were treated to a flyover of military aircraft at 11:10 a.m. on the dot.
But the best treat of all, at least for the hungry among the masses, was a free all-day breakfast of hotcakes, eggs, sausage and coffee whipped up by none other than Aunt Jemima herself. Or, to be more precise, one of the dozens of women hired to portray her at various events over the years.
A caption in a photo in the May 21 edition of the Tribune identified her as “Mrs. Jessie Stokes of Nebraska,” without specifying whether Jessie was her first name or her husband’s.