Fact Check: Photo Of Chained Woman Is NOT 'Aunt Jemima'

Fact Check

  • by: Gita Smith
Fact Check: Photo Of Chained Woman Is NOT 'Aunt Jemima' Work of Art

Does a photo of an African-American woman holding a plate of pancakes and with her leg chained to a table show "Aunt Jemima" who represented the pancake brand for decades? No, it does not: The photo is of photographer Sally Stockhold, a white woman who dressed in costume and blackface makeup several years ago to impersonate the iconic Aunt Jemima for an art show.

The photo appeared in a post (archived here) where it was published on Facebook on June 22, 2020. It opened:

This is why this was a huge issue to change the brand/name most ppl didn't understand. I don't give a dayum if her worth was 18 trillion her leg is chained to a fkin table. Yet when you try to find this pic you only see the picture on your right.

Here is a screenshot of another similar post on Facebook:

Facebook screenshot

(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Wed Jun 24 01:05:56 2020 UTC)

Stockhold's photo appeared online in 2013 when she was having an exhibition of her work. She dressed up as well-known figures, both male and female, and treated the subjects as performance art. According to truthorfiction.org, the post to which the blackface photo was attached was "Sally Stockhold's 3-Camera Circus," which identified the image now circulating on Facebook as the creative work of Stockhold, below, in a photo from Denver Art Matters:


A 2013 article in the Denver Post had this to say about Stockhold and her work:

Some curators and other art insiders have been leery of these images because they are contrived, stagey and a little bizarre, but it is exactly those qualities -- all intended by the artist -- that make them so intriguing. In fact, it does not seem much of a stretch to count Stockhold among the most daring and original photographers at work in Denver."

Denver Art Matters' website displayed some of her creative work with photos of her as Salvador Dali, Sid Vicious and even Ethel Rosenberg seated in the electric chair.

Flickr.com shows one of the sepia tone Jemima prints with hand-colored pigments, titled "Aunt Jemima, 'I laughed because they paid me'" from her series "myselfportraits." Prints at the time were sold for $695.

The original model for the pancake mix trademark, Nancy Green, who first promoted the Aunt Jemima brand in the 1890s and who was in fact born into slavery, never posed in chains. She died in 1923 at the age of 89.

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  Gita Smith

Gita Smith covered news for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Montgomery Advertiser, and she wrote/edited medical newsletters for American Health Consultants at the dawn of the AIDS epidemic when clear, factual information was as needed. 

For a time, she taught in Auburn University’s journalism department and ran the History-Geography lab at Alabama State University, where she taught students to write research papers . She believes the following to be true: The power of the free press may appear to be a weak reed to lean on, but it separates democracies from juntas.

Read more about or contact Gita Smith

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