Aunt Jemima to Change Racially Insensitive Brand Name and Image
Its name originates from a 19th century minstrel song.
Syrup and pancake mix brand Aunt Jemima will change its name and image as the company re-evaluates the problematic roots of its branding. The brand’s parent company, Quaker Oats, has issued a statement acknowledging that the Aunt Jemima character is “based on a racial stereotype,” according to the New York Times.
Critics have long raised issue with Aunt Jemima, whose depiction and name harken to blackface and minstrel shows. Back in 2015, Cornell University Associate Professor Riché Richardson wrote an op-ed for the Times pointing out that the brand’s name originates from a 19th century minstrel song, “Old Aunt Jemima.”
Richardson also noted that the Aunt Jemima logo is 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.”
Indeed, earlier iterations of Aunt Jemima depicted the character with exaggerated red lips, a hallmark of blackface makeup, and outfitted in a headscarf.
Aunt Jemima’s branding updates, the specifics of which are still unclear, will begin rolling out this fall. The brand has also pledged to donate $5 million USD over the next five years, “to create meaningful, ongoing support and engagement in the Black community.”