Aunt Jemima Brand Acknowledges Its Racist Past And Will Be Retired
Quaker Oats is retiring the Aunt Jemima brand after more than 130 years because its origins are based on a racial stereotype.
The brand was first established in 1889 before being purchased by Quaker Oats in 1926, and is best known for being a producer of syrup and pancake mixes.
Aunt Jemima’s logo is that of a black woman who goes by the same name and, although the picture has changed over time, she was originally dressed as a minstrel character; one of the personas created to demean and mock black people.
The brand name was based off a minstrel performer’s song, Old Aunt Jemima, which was reportedly sung by slaves, CNN reports.
Quaker Oats has received criticism in the past for its decision to continue using the logo, and in recent years the company removed the headscarf previously worn by Aunt Jemima in an effort to make her less reminiscent of the ‘mammy’ character that has appeared in films and literature, such as Gone With The Wind and Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and dates back to the days of slavery.
According to Cornell University professor Riché Richardson, who criticised the logo in a New York Times opinion piece in 2015, the ‘mammy’ character is that of ‘a devoted and submissive servant who eagerly nurtured the children of her white master and mistress while neglecting her own’.
Rather than attempting to edit the logo any further, Quaker Oats has now decided to retire the Aunt Jemima brand altogether and give the products a new name and image.
In a press release shared today, June 17, Kristin Kroepfl, vice president and chief marketing officer of Quaker Foods North America, said:
We recognise Aunt Jemima’s origins are based on a racial stereotype.
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’ expectation.
Kroepfl addressed the changes made to the logo in the past, saying the company had ‘updated’ the brand to be ‘appropriate and respectful’, but has since realised the changes were insufficient, NBC News reports.
In a further effort to tackle racism, Quaker Oats announced it will donate at least $5 million over the next five years ‘to create meaningful, ongoing support and engagement in the Black community’.
Speaking on the Today show this morning, Professor Richardson stressed the brand is ‘a retrograde image of Black womanhood on store shelves’.
It’s an image that harkens back to the antebellum plantation… Aunt Jemima is that kind of stereotype is premised on this idea of Black inferiority and otherness.
It is urgent to expunge our public spaces of a lot of these symbols that for some people are triggering and represent terror and abuse.
At the time of writing, the Aunt Jemima website states the brand was ‘first brought to life by Nancy Green, a storyteller, cook and missionary worker’. However, there is no mention of the fact Green was born into slavery.
The new brand name is set to be announced at a later date, with new packaging to appear later this year.
If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article and wish to speak to someone in confidence, contact Stop Hate UK by visiting their website www.stophateuk.org/talk