Thursday, May 3, 2018

Aunt Jemima welcomes us into an 1893 World’s Fair that’s not so fun to recall

     Sometimes the obvious sit in plain sight, unnoticed, until someone points it out.
     Despite a lifetime of eating hot dogs, a connection eluded me until I attended Northwestern literature professor Bill Savage’s lecture about ketchup during the Chicago History Museum’s Hot Dog Fest three years ago and he casually dropped the bomb.
     “Two immigrant brothers came here and in 1893, at the World’s Fair, had the brilliant idea to put a viener, a Viennese sausage, in a bun, and voila, the hot dog is born, or at least the Vienna Beef hot dog is born.”
Ohhh, Vienna led to wiener just as Frankfurt led to frankfurter. Makes sense.
     With the 125th anniversary of the opening of the World’s Columbian Exposition May 1, expect fond visits to Chicago’s debut in the global spotlight. The fair’s impact stays with us, in the many products debuted: from Vienna Beef to Aunt Jemima pancakes, from the Ferris wheel to the zipper. The blue ribbon that Pabst beer boasts of on every can was awarded at the 1893 fair.Wait a sec. Aunt Jemima Pancakes … hmm … maybe we better skip that one. Awkward. Uncomfortable.
     Besides, the product had really debuted a few years earlier. The creators of Aunt Jemima went bankrupt in 1890, and a second company relaunched the brand at the fair, hiring a South side cook and former slave named Nancy Green to wear an apron and kerchief and dole out pancakes.

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11 comments:

  1. The sad part is that most people (and by that I mean white people) would have had no idea that they were racists in those days. White supremacy was taken for granted. What's even sadder is that so many years later that politicians can still use racism to bring out the bigots to vote. And, for all I know, I could be harboring hurtful attitudes as well even though I strive to be rid of them. After all, does a fish know that it's wet?

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    1. What you don't know you don't know. Growing up in then lily white Wisconsin, in those days before the natives came to appreciate how adept Black people could be at blocking, tackling, running and catching, I was somewhat taken aback when a fellow student at the U. of C. who happened to be Black told me that going north of Milwaukee he felt like he was in Alabama.

      Tom

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  2. Wonderful article.

    A reminder what is being suggested by the Make America Great Again crowd. Make America great like it was in 1893 - you know, when our cruel and violent racism didn't have to operate in the shadows.

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  3. Oh, but taking notice of the fact that blacks were excluded from the World's Fair would be tantamount to...drumbeat...racial quotas! And as all right-thinking people know, racial quotas are the greatest injustice in the history of mankind.

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    1. It's hard to imagine the objections of haters and we don't have to. Glancing in my spam folder, I see their complaints are: a) all these people are dead; b) this happened a long time ago so doesn't matter; c) I'm "playing the racial card" again. The mind reels.

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    2. "Don't call me a racist!" they whine after trotting out stereotype after stereotype of shiftless Blacks, money-hungry Jews, all-too-clever Asians, and dumb Polacks. Genuine history has no meaning to such folks - all that counts is how they feel today, which is usually aggrieved.

      john

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  4. Just saw a segment on the news about 3 high school girls who were in a NASA science competition. The popular voting on the web had to be shut down because of a racist group’s comments. It just pissed me off to hear that these idiots would try to hurt a group of smart girls because they’re black. I guess we still have a ways to go as a society.

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  5. certainly skittishness by fearful officers explains some of the incidents where officers murder black people.but today as in the past there are violent, vicious, racist, individuals in positions of power and authority who are engaged in a systemic practice that results in the abuse and unwarranted deaths of blacks and other citizens and go unpunished. shameful that good people in our country continue to tolerate such circumstances.

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    1. While there have been examples of wrongful shootings by police officers, to label it as a "systematic practice" is an overstatement. The wrongful shootings are given an airing in the press, and when adjudicated, punishment is given, and that's the right thing to do, in both cases. But I think if you were to look at every case where an officer shoots someone you would find that they were using allowable and justified deadly force to protect themselves or others. While there are some very unfortunate incidents, the very vast number of officers want to do what's right, and in some cases doing so requires the use of deadly force.

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    2. While there have been documented cases where officers used deadly force in an unjustified way, those incidents have been aired, and where warranted, punishment handed out. Calling it a "systematic practice is unfair. I believe that if you were to look at every case where an officer used deadly force you would find that their actions were justified under the guidelines for the use of deadly force in order to protect themselves or others from harm. With some egregious exceptions, police officers do not want to use deadly force, but the reality is that in certain circumstances they must.

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  6. My Great grandfather had excavating contracts for the Fairs lagoons. A story in the Trib confirmed he supported the 8 hour workday movement arising at that time. Unfortunately equality in hiring would have to wait. To a degree, we are still waiting. The race card is still in the deck.

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