Aunt Jemima to Change Brand Name and Remove Image "Based on a Racial Stereotype"

The Quaker Oats Company announced a major change to their Aunt Jemima brand amid the Black Lives Matter movement.
von Samantha Schnurr Jun 17, 2020 15:44Tags
Aunt Jemima SyrupDonald King/AP/Shutterstock

Aunt Jemima-branded pancakes and syrup will soon be no more. 

Amid the Black Lives Matter movement and ongoing criticism of the Aunt Jemima company over its offensive roots, the brand of pancake mix, syrup and other items will be removing its image—currently of a Black woman smiling while donning pearl earrings and a lace collar—and getting a new name, The Quaker Oats Company, a subsidiary of PepsiCo, Inc., announced on Wednesday. 

"As we work to make progress toward racial equality through several initiatives, we also must take a hard look at our portfolio of brands and ensure they reflect our values and meet our consumers' expectations," Kristin Kroepfl, Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, Quaker Foods North America, said in a press release. "We recognize Aunt Jemima's origins are based on a racial stereotype. While work has been done over the years to update the brand in a manner intended to be appropriate and respectful, we realize those changes are not enough."

Said Kroepfl, "We acknowledge the brand has not progressed enough to appropriately reflect the confidence, warmth and dignity that we would like it to stand for today. We are starting by removing the image and changing the name. We will continue the conversation by gathering diverse perspectives from both our organization and the Black community to further evolve the brand and make it one everyone can be proud to have in their pantry."

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The Aunt Jemima pancake mix dates back to 1889, when Chris Rutt and Charles Underwood developed it for their Pearl Milling Company, years after Billy Kersands' minstrel song "Old Aunt Jemima" emerged. "Aunt Jemima" was also a character reportedly portrayed by male minstrel comedians dressed in Blackface. Nancy Green, a former slave, was first hired to represent Aunt Jemima for the pancake mix, followed by other Black women over the years. Previous versions of the brand's logo featured a Black woman smiling while wearing a headscarf. 

Courtney Dittmar/AP/Shutterstock

In her 2015 New York Times piece, titled "Can We Please, Finally, Get Rid of 'Aunt Jemima'?" professor and author Riché Richardson explained, "This Aunt Jemima logo was an outgrowth of Old South plantation nostalgia and romance grounded in an idea about the 'mammy,' a devoted and submissive servant who eagerly nurtured the children of her white master and mistress while neglecting her own. Visually, the plantation myth portrayed her as an asexual, plump black woman wearing a headscarf."

Per the company's announcement, "packaging changes without the Aunt Jemima image will begin to appear throughout Q4 of 2020. The name change will be announced at a later date and will quickly follow the first phase of packaging changes."

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It was also announced, according to the release, that the Aunt Jemima brand "will donate a minimum of $5 million over the next five years to create meaningful, ongoing support and engagement in the Black community."