Brand Formerly Known as Aunt Jemima Reveals New Name
The brand formerly known as Aunt Jemima finally has a new name: Pearl Milling Company. In a statement released on Tuesday, PepsiCo, which owns the Quaker Oats brand, explained the story behind the new name.
Rebranded Aunt Jemima packaging shows similar bottles labeled Pearl Milling Company (Courtesy PepsiCo, Inc.)
“Though new to store shelves, Pearl Milling Company was founded in 1888 in St. Joseph, Missouri, and was the originator of the iconic self-rising pancake mix that would later become known as Aunt Jemima,” the statement reads.
The longtime brand announced they would remove the outdated image of Aunt Jemima at the end of 2020, with the name change happening at a later date. The new logo is slated to appear on store shelves in June 2021.
“We recognize Aunt Jemima’s origins are based on a racial stereotype," Kristin Kroepfl, vice president and chief marketing officer of Quaker Foods North America, said in a statement to NBC News last year. "While work has been done over the years to update the brand in a manner intended to be appropriate and respectful, we realize those changes are not enough.”
The history of Aunt Jemima is somewhat muddled, but in a 2015 piece for The New York Times, Riché Richardson, an associate professor of African American literature in the Africana Studies and Research Center at Cornell University, explained the brand’s name and original logo were inspired by a minstrel song about a "mammy" caricature, “Old Aunt Jemima.”
Related: Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben are more than slightly problematic — they're vestiges of a bygone era that celebrated the mockery of Black people for white entertainment.
"It's an image that hearkens back to the antebellum plantation," Richardson told Sheinelle Jones on TODAY last summer. "Aunt Jemima is that kind of stereotype that is premised on this idea of Black inferiority and otherness. It is urgent to expunge public spaces of a lot of these symbols that for some people are triggering and represent terror and abuse."
For decades, Aunt Jemima product packaging has featured images of a smiling Black woman, and for years, that image has been criticized for depicting a racist "mammy" stereotype dating back to slavery.
An example of an Aunt Jemima advertisement as provided by the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia. (Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia)
While the company made changes to the character over the years — including removing the character’s kerchief — amid the country's racial reckoning following the killing of George Floyd, Quaker Oats representatives said the Aunt Jemima brand had "not progressed enough.”
“We are starting by removing the image and changing the name. We will continue the conversation by gathering diverse perspectives from both our organization and the Black community to further evolve the brand and make it one everyone can be proud to have in their pantry,” Kroepfl said.
The rebranded Pearl Milling Company said in a statement that the new name was workshopped with “consumers, employees, external cultural and subject-matter experts, and diverse agency partners,” and “developed with inclusivity in mind.” It also plans to make a $1 million “commitment to empower and uplift Black girls and women.”