Things That Matter

After 130 Years Of Racist Marketing Tactics, Aunt Jemima Changes Its Name

Updated Feb. 9, 2021

Black Lives Matter is coming for racist breakfast penchants and we are here for it.

Quaker Oats (the parent company of syrup and pancake mix brand Aunt Jemima) announced that it will change the name and image of the syrup brand after being called out for its racist roots. The decision came after the hashtag #AuntJemima began trending on Twitter on Monday with users calling for the brand to recognize the racist name and depiction of its character.

In reaction to calls to dismantle the Aunt Jemima name and branding, Quaker Oats announced they would update the brand in a manner intended to be appropriate.

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“We recognize Aunt Jemima’s origins are based on a racial stereotype,” Kristin Kroepfl, Quaker Oat’s company’s vice president and chief marketing officer, announced in a press release. “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.”

A June 2020 press release aimed to make the new changes by June 2021.

In response to Quaker’s decision, Mars, the parent company of Uncle Ben’s rice, also announced their intentions to copy the move. “As a global brand, we know we have a responsibility to take a stand in helping to put an end to racial bias and injustices,” Mars also announced in a June 2020 press release. “As we listen to the voices of consumers, especially in the Black community, and to the voices of our Associates worldwide, we recognize that now is the right time to evolve the Uncle Ben’s brand, including its visual brand identity, which we will do.”

Quaker Oats finally put the racist stereotype that has represented its pancake mixes and syrups to rest, choosing the name Pearl Milling Company as its replacement.

The name “Aunt Jemima” will be replaced with the Pearl Milling Company name and logo on the former brand’s new packaging.

“We are starting a new day with Pearl Milling Company,” a spokesperson for the brand’s parent company PepsiCo announced in a statement. “A new day rooted in the brand’s historic beginnings and its mission to create moments that matter at the breakfast table.”

The new brand will launch this June.

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All for a white laugh.

Aunt Jemima specifically was based on the racist portrayal of a “mammy.” Mammies, whose roots come from slavery, were often portrayed as caregivers and maids in white households. Inspiration for Aunt Jemima came from a minstrel song “Old Aunt Jemima” who appeared on stages in Washington, D.C. around 1864 just before the 13th amendment abolished slavery on December 6, 1865.

The brand’s founder, Chris L. Rutt reportedly saw a minstrel show featuring “Old Aunt Jemima” and he appropriated the Aunt Jemima character to market his pancake mix.

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Since the start of the brand, marketing materials for Aunt Jemima have centered around the mammy archetype. Black liberation activist Anna J. Cooper once underlined that the advertising of Aunt Jemima products “revealed a deep need to redeem the antebellum South” and that “Aunt Jemima and her pancake recipe were reconciliation gifts from the South to the North; reunification meant they could now share her as a southern prize: a mammy for the national household.”

No doubt that the recent brand upheaval comes at the hands of vocal critics online.

Users on TikTok and twitter worked to raise awareness of the brand’s racist history and many encouraged people to shop other syrup brands that are Black-owned ones. One user by singer Kirby, shared a short anecdote about the history of the brand and how one depiction of Aunt Jemima had a Black woman travel “around, cooking pancakes, and telling people stories of the good old South.”

“Black lives matter, people — even over breakfast,” Kirby said at the end of the click while throwing a box of the pancake.

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