The Quaker Oats Company has announced it will remove the name and image of Aunt Jemima from its brand after 131 years, calling the change necessary “to make progress toward racial equality,” according to a report by NBC News.
In a statement Wednesday, the company said it recognizes that “Aunt Jemima’s origins are based on a racial stereotype.”
A new name and packaging will start appearing on store shelves in the fall.
Aunt Jemima was founded in 1889, 24 years after the Civil War.
The eponymous character was originally depicted as a minstrel and then as a headscarf-wearing “mammy,” emblematic of the Old South. While the name of the pancake and syrup products have remained the same, the brand’s identity continued to evolve over time to its current logo.
“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 press release. “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.”
For many years the company faced criticism and pressure to change the logo, especially from the black community, who continued to view it as a painful symbol of slavery and Jim Crow.
In the announcement, Quaker said it would donate $5 million over five years to “create meaningful, ongoing support and engagement in the Black community.”
Numerous relics of slavery and the Civil War, like Confederate statues, battle flags, and even slave auction blocks, have been defaced and toppled by protesters around the country in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
In an even wider cultural shift, many large American companies have begun making public statements in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, and some, like Quaker, are abandoning symbols and business practices seen as insensitive to people of color.
Two other popular consumer products, Uncle Ben’s rice and Mrs. Butterworth’s syrup, followed suit late Wednesday, announcing they too would be phasing out their longtime brand logos.
— This is a developing story. Please come back to AJC.com for the latest updates.
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