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Aunt Jemima changing name, removing image 'based on racial stereotype'

Aunt Jemima changing name, removing image 'based on racial stereotype'
© PRNewsfoto/The Quaker Oats Company

The 130-year-old Aunt Jemima brand of pancake mixes and syrups will get a new name and image, with Pepsi-owned company Quaker Oats announcing Wednesday that it recognizes "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’ expectations," Kristin Kroepfl, vice president and chief marketing officer of Quaker Foods North America, said in a statement

"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," said Kroepfl. "We are starting by removing the image and changing the name.”

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New packaging will begin to appear on shelves in the fall, and more details about the updated name will be announced at a later date.

PepsiCo also announced that the Aunt Jemima brand would make a minimum donation of $5 million over the next five years “to create meaningful, ongoing support and engagement in the Black community.”

The decision was first reported by NBC News.

The brand features a black woman named Aunt Jemima who was originally dressed as a minstrel character, the network reported. The original logo was inspired by the minstrel song “Old Aunt Jemima.”

The company's website said the logo started in 1890 and was based on Nancy Green, a "storyteller, cook and missionary worker." 

However, Aunt Jemima’s company does not note that Green was born into slavery in Kentucky and was hired to become the brand’s first living trademark in 1890 at the age of 56.

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The company has faced criticism for perpetuating a racist stereotype dating back to slavery, and the logo has been changed, most recently removing the “mammy” kerchief from the character.

The Aunt Jemima logo was updated in 1989 for “a contemporary look," swapping her red bandana with pearl earrings and a lace collar.

Riché Richardson, an associate professor at Cornell University, wrote in 2015 that famous brand was “very much linked to Southern racism.”  

“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,” Richardson wrote for The New York Times.

The rebrand comes amid a national conversation about racial inequality following the death of George Floyd, a black man who died while in Minneapolis police custody on Memorial Day.

--This report was updated at 9:55 a.m.