Aunt Jemima and the Pillsbury Doughboy, 1963
This image appears in the International Review of African American Art
v.15, no. 1, 1998.
Aunt Jemima and the Pillsbury Doughboy, an oil on linen, was begun on August 28, 1963, the day of the civil rights March on Washington. While proud of the event, Donaldson was disappointed that no galvanizing initiatives were introduced. At the time, he reasoned that the "next level of struggle would [have to be] confrontational" if African Americans were to secure their rights.
Aunt Jemima, portrays the confrontation Donaldson envisioned. Appropriating icons of American consumer culture, the painting not only portrays a confrontation between Aunt Jemima and the Pillsbury Doughboy, but also enacts a confrontation with popular media imagery responsible for furthering racist stereotypes. Donaldson's depiction of Aunt Jemima subverts the docility and subservience associated with this image of black womanhood. Though the Pillsbury Doughboy (a figure of oppression in the painting) restrains Aunt Jemima, her defensive stance and fierce expression indicate that she will not concede defeat. Moreover, her statuesque figure implies that she holds the upper-hand in a contest of strength with her opressor. Pitting The Pillsbury Doughboy against Aunt Jemima, Donaldson is simultaneously "identifying the enemy" and asserting black America's strength to overcome racist oppression.
Notably, the subversive nature of Aunt Jemima, extends to the American flag as well. The strips of the flag in the painting's background are bent in an angle reminiscient of a swastika. Challenging the notions of democracy and freedom associated with the American flag, Donaldson is drawing a jarring connection between American racism and the recognized atrocities of Nazism.
printmaker, painter, educator
Donaldson, a founding member of OBAC and AfriCobra, was born December 15, 1932 in Pine Bluffs, Arkansas. He has studied at the University of Arkansas, where he received a B.A. degree in studio art. He later earned a M.S. degree in art education from the Illinois Institute of Technoloy (1963), and a Ph.D. degree in art history from Northwestern University (1973).
After serving as guest lecturer at Northwestern University form 1968-1970, Donaldson became the chairman of the art department at Howard University. He is presently the dean of the College of Fine Arts at Howard.
National Center for Afro-American Artists, Boston, 1970
Cornell University, New York, 1974
Cleveland State, 1974
Florida A&M University, 1975
Centre d'Art, Port-au-Prince, Haiti, 1979