After 130 years, the brand of syrup sold by Quaker Oats will no longer carry the name or image of Aunt Jemima.
The character, first introduced in minstrel shows with white people in blackface to proliferate the mammy stereotype, has remained on bottles of syrup and boxes of pancake mix for decades after the Civil Rights movement, a reminder of the everyday racism that brands once casually got away with.
Quaker Oats continued to use the Aunt Jemima name and imagery, even after years of calls from consumers to change it.
But that changed Wednesday, when Quaker Oats and parent company PepsiCo. announced that they would be dropping both the name and any reference to the enslaved woman whose imagined story became one of the most noted marketing successes of the early 20th century.
From a history on blackexcellence.com:
Davis Milling Company went on to use a former enslaved woman, Nancy Green, as its first spokesperson.
In 2017, I asked when the executives who sold Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben products would finally wake up and respond to the cultural movement afoot. We now have the answer about Aunt Jemima, but the question remains: How much longer will the Uncle Tom-based figure of Uncle Ben appear on boxes of rice sold by the Houston-based Mars Inc.?
Mars is a family-owned company that could decide at any minute to make the change, but it has stayed quiet on the issue.
What about the New Jersey-based Cream of Wheat, who used a fictional character named Rastus on its packaging, later followed by an image of a real-life Chicago chef named Frank White, who remains on the boxes?
What about Mrs. Butterworth’s, a brand that didn’t launch until 1961?
The Minnesota-based Land O’Lakes dropped the figure of an indigenous woman from its packaging earlier this year. The character, whom advertising executives named Mia, first appeared in 1928.