The Aunt Jemima brand of pancake mix and syrups, a shelf staple for over 130 years, will finally be retired as PepsiCo, the brand that owns Quaker Oats (which, in turn, owns Aunt Jemima), finally acknowledges the brand’s racist roots. The Aunt Jemima brand identity has long been a target of criticism, notably in a 2015 opinion piece published in the New York Times by Cornell University professor Riché Richardson in which the professor explained and explored the logo’s links to southern racism. Richardson writes that the original Aunt Jemima logo is based on the racist depiction of a “‘mammy,’ a devoted and submissive servant who eagerly nurtured the children of her white master and mistress while neglecting her own.”
According to CNN Business, the Aunt Jemima brand and logo were originally based on a minstrel show song entitled Old Aunt Jemima, and the likeness of Nancy Green, a real-life “storyteller, cook, and missionary worker” who was born into slavery.
“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,” wrote Quaker Oats in a statement provided to CNN Business. Quaker Oats intends to relaunch the brand with a new name and logo sometime this fall, and the Aunt Jemima brand will donate $5 million over the next five years to organizations that will “create meaningful, ongoing support and engagement in the Black Community.”
Throughout the brand’s 130 year history, the logo has changed to offer a less stereotypical depiction of Aunt Jemima, though the brand has never been able to truly escape its racist “Mammy”-depicting origins amongst people familiar with the brand’s roots.