It’s hard to fathom that in 2020 a billion dollar food conglomerate would have a racist mammy caricature as the face of their pancake and syrup brands. Fortunately, Quaker Oats has finally come to its senses, and is retiring Aunt Jemima for good.
On Wednesday, Quaker Oats acknowledged the racial history surrounding its 130-year-old Aunt Jemima brand and announced it would be launching a rebranded name and packaging later this year.
“We recognize Aunt Jemima’s origins are based on a racial stereotype,” Quaker Oats’ vice president and chief marketing officer Kristin Kroepfl said in a statement on Wednesday. “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.”
The character Aunt Jemima originated from a 19th century minstrel show, and was at one point portrayed by a former slave. Beginning in the 1960s, Civil Rights leaders and Black advocacy groups called on Quaker Oats to cease usage of the brand, citing its racial tropes and glorification of Antebellum plantation life.
In 1990, Big Daddy Kane specifically referenced the problematic nature of the brand in the Public Enemy song “Burn Hollywood Burn”. A decade later, Spike Lee parodied Aunt Jemima in his 2000 film Bamboozled alongside other stereotypical Black Antebellum South characters. Tracy Morgan even created his own version of the character, Uncle Jemima, for a memorable sketch on Saturday Night Live.
And yet, even after Quaker Oats was purchased by PepsiCo in 2001, the brand and its associated imagery remained in tact.
In addition to rebranding Aunt Jemima, Quaker Oats has announced a $5 million donation “to create meaningful, ongoing support and engagement in the Black community.”