Aunt Jemima to get new name and image after backlash, Quaker admits packaging was based 'on racial stereotype'

The cover of the brand's products features a black fictional character by the name of Aunt Jemima, a mammy who worked for a white family


                            Aunt Jemima to get new name and image after backlash, Quaker admits packaging was based 'on racial stereotype'
(Getty Images)

Following widespread criticism for propagating a racial stereotype, the Aunt Jemima brand of syrup and pancake mix will be getting a new name and image, its owner Quaker Oats announced.

MEA WorldWide (MEAWW) had previously reported that Aunt Jemima had come under the scanner following a TikTok video where a black girl talked briefly about the brand's history before throwing the contents of the pack and stating it was an act of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

In a press release obtained by NBC News, Quaker Oats, which is a subsidiary of PepsiCo, acknowledged that Aunt Jemima's origins were based on a racial stereotype and that they would be removing the image and changing the name to "make progress toward racial equality."

"We recognize Aunt Jemima’s origins are based on a racial stereotype," said Kristin Kroepfl, vice president and chief marketing officer of Quaker Foods North America. "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."

Referring to how Quaker had previously removed the "mammy" kerchief from the character, Kroepfl said the company had worked to "update" the brand to be more "appropriate and respectful" but that they now realize the changes were insufficient.

The company also announced it will donate $5 million over the next five years to "create meaningful, ongoing support and engagement in the Black community".

A little over 120 years old, the brand had received its trademark in 1893, with the cover of its products featuring a black fictional character by the name of Aunt Jemima, a mammy who worked for a White family.

A mammy was the term used to describe a devoted and submissive servant who eagerly nurtured the children of her white master and mistress while disregarding her own. The name Aunt Jemima, on the other hand, was inspired by the song, 'Old Aunt Jemima,' which was sung by slaves.

Riché Richardson, an associate professor at Cornell University, expanded further on the brand's origins on the 'TODAY' show this past week, and said Aunt Jemima was "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 premised on this idea of Black inferiority and otherness," he explained. "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."

Quaker said the new packaging for its syrup and pancakes mix will begin appearing in the fall of 2020 and that a new name would be announced at a later date.

Daina Ramey Berry, a professor of history at The University of Texas, praised the decision to change the name and packaging and said the image of Aunt Jemima was significant because it normalized a particular depiction of black women.

She explained that it kept black women in "the space of domestic service" by associating them with serving food under a "plantation mentality" and that it was an embodiment of "the stereotypical and traumatic and abusive ways in which we are represented."

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