Aunt Jemima Changes Name to Remove ‘Racial Stereotypes’

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Aunt Jemima

Several brands are under the radar for being racially inappropriate over the years. Due to the advent of social media, people have become much more socially aware. And things that didn’t make us think twice are making us think a lot. As of now, Aunt Jemima is all set to change their name, logo, and look. They promised to drop the brand name after facing criticism to caricature a woman of color.

Aunt Jemima changes name due to racism protest

Aunt Jemima will soon be known as the Pearl Milling Company. The name pays homage to the first mill built in 1888 and began producing the household pancake mix since 1889.

The company’s official website announced that they would change the name to Pearl Milling Company on Tuesday. They also shared that Pearl Milling Company was a small mill located in the busy town of St. Joseph in Missouri. With the help of the pearl milling technique, the company produced flour and cornmeal. Their efforts led to the widely-accepted product of Aunt Jemima.

The brand was the first to announce its name change after protests in the US due to George Floyd’s death. The Black man was killed by a group of Minneapolis police officers, as one of them knelt on his head while the others supported the act. The man gasped for breath and died within nine minutes.

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The incident made people protest from all across the country. Soon, many brands started facing flak due to their racially inappropriate products. Many celebrities were called out to look down on people of color, make fun of them, and much more.

Brands who altered their names

Aunt Jemima’s decision was followed by the Washington Football Team, product Cream of Wheat, music group “Lady A” and “The Chicks”, and more. The famous Mrs. Butterworth’s and Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream dropped their names and changed it to Eskimo Pie after over 100 years.

How the branding of Aunt Jemima changed over the years?

The Quaker Oats Company and PepsiCo promised to change Aunt Jemima last year. They said that the product does not reflect their core values. While the name will change, the “pearl” will not, clarified the Pearl Milling Company.

According to PepsiCo, the Aunt Jemima brand updated its image through decades to stop racial stereotypes, which the brand originated with. The brand dated back to 1889 and owned by two men Charles Underwood and Chris Rutt. The company was brought on by a Black woman named Anna Robinson. She is the lady who portrayed as Aunt Jemima since 1933. Later, actress Aylene Lewis portrayed the same during the 50s and 60s.

In 1989, the company changed the image of Aunt Jemima to give her a contemporary look. She was seen wearing pearl earrings and had a lace collar.

Once PepsiCo acquired Quaker Oats Company, they wanted this product to exhibit mothers’ love from diverse backgrounds and how they want their families’ best. However, the company kept getting a lot of suggestions on name change over the years.

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Riché Richardson, an associate professor in Africana Studies and Research Center from Cornell University, said that the product’s logo exhibits the nostalgia of Old South plantations. It is a feeling of love for ‘mammy’, a dedicated servant, nurturing the children of a ‘white’ master but neglecting her own. The associate professor wrote this in op-ed at the NY Times in 2015 and exclaimed to get rid of Aunt Jemima’s depiction. Moreover, he said that visual representation looks like the lady is an asexual, plus-size woman, wearing a headscarf.

PepsiCo promises plans of inclusivity

When PepsiCo announced the name change, they mentioned that Quaker has worked with employees, consumers, and subject-matter experts of external cultures to bring a fresh perspective. They now focus on inclusivity and wish to uphold such mindsets.

PepsiCo said that the Pearl Milling Company would give details into their $1 million promise to empower Black women and young girls within the following weeks. They will invite them to visit their website and nominate non-profit organizations to receive funding for their goals.

PepsiCo is already working on their $400 million, five-year investment for uplifting businesses started by Black communities. They also promise to represent people of color at PepsiCo.

The replaced product packaging will hit stores from June 2021. It will continue to be available under the name of Aunt Jemima till then.

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