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After 130 Years, Aunt Jemima Is Getting an Overhaul

Aunt Jemima brand is changing logo, name to 'make progress toward racial equality'
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 17, 2020 9:35 AM CDT

(Newser) – For decades, supermarket shoppers have seen bottles of maple syrup represented by log cabins, matrons with aprons, and one especially controversial brand that's now getting an overhaul. Per NBC News, Quaker Oats, a subsidiary of PepsiCo, announced Wednesday it will completely change both the logo and name of its Aunt Jemima brand syrup and pancake mix. "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," a Quaker Foods North America marketing exec says in a release. The brand has long been under fire for its name, as well as its accompanying picture of a black woman, but those criticisms have been renewed in recent weeks due to the George Floyd protests and Black Lives Matter rallies.

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The brand's origin was inspired by the minstrel song "Old Aunt Jemima," which was said to have been sung by slaves. The logo created in 1890 was based on a former slave, Nancy Green, described on the brand's site as a "storyteller, cook, and missionary worker." CNN Business notes that the brand has long been slammed for the stereotype epitomized by Aunt Jemima, including in a 2015 New York Times op-ed in which Cornell University professor Riche Richardson took to task the use of the "mammy" stereotype—a "devoted and submissive servant" depicted as an "asexual, plump black woman wearing a headscarf"—for the logo. Ads that played into that stereotype also ran for decades, using various black actresses playing the mammy role. Quaker Oats will introduce the new logo and brand name this fall. (Land O'Lakes recently dumped its "butter maiden.")

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