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Second Thursday program features ‘Pancake Queen’

Aunt Jemima is in town this week.

Debra Faulk of the Kentucky Humanities Council will portray Nancy Green, the original “Aunt Jemima,” at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Bluegrass Heritage Museum.

Director Sandy Stults said Faulk would talk about being Aunt Jemima, the Pancake Queen, at this week’s second Thursday program, “Being Aunt Jemima, the Pancake Queen.” Lexington native Bo List authored the program.

Stults said she met Faulk a little over a year ago, and Faulk made such an impression, Stults knew she had to come to the museum.

“I wanted her to do a program at the museum and [Aunt Jemima is] her topic,” Stults said.

Faulk has spent years working in theater serving as a lecturer with the University of Kentucky Theatre and Dance, an artist with the Theatre of Hearts in Los Angeles and a teaching assistant at California State University, Los Angeles.

Faulk has been a part of many area productions including performances with the University of Kentucky Department of Theatre and Dance, the Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center and has entertained at several comedy clubs.

Nancy Green became one of the first prosperous African American women in the U.S. Green was born enslaved in Montgomery County in 1834, according to the Kentucky Humanities Council.

While in Kentucky, Green worked for the Walker family and moved with them to Chicago after “the Great Fire” in 1872. Eight years later, Green became “Aunt Jemima.”

According to the council, businessman R.T. Davis had purchased a pre-mixed, self-rising recipe for pancakes in 1890 and wanted an “Aunt Jemima,” a character from minstrel shows which were popular at the time, to be the face of his pancakes.

“Aunt Jemima” would be a friendly, animated, African American cook who served a wealthy white family. Playing the role of “Aunt Jemima” gave Green financial independence few African Americans and few women experienced at the time.

She used her wealth as a means to empower her community. She was particularly active in her church, leading missionary trips investing in anti-poverty programs for African Americans and advocating for equal rights. Green’s identity as a Aunt Jemima was a secret; the world would not know Green played the Jemima character until after her death in 1923 at the age of 89.

Stults said the second Thursday program is free and open to the public. Doors open at 6 p.m., but the program officially starts at 6:30 p.m.

“Come listen to an interesting topic, meet other people and we have free refreshments,” Stults said.

About Lashana Harney

Lashana Harney is a reporter for The Winchester Sun. Her beats include schools and education, business and commerce, Winchester Municipal Utilities and other news. To contact her, email lashana.harney@winchestersun.com or call 859-759-0015.

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