The food products tagged with the Aunt Jemima name and the likeness of a Black woman inspired by minstrel shows will cease to exist by the end of this year. Quaker Oats announced on Wednesday that the brand recognizes the logo for the popular pancake mix and syrup established in 1889 is “based on a racial stereotype” and will be removing the image in an effort “to make progress toward racial equality.”

The image of Aunt Jemima has long been debated, even forcing the brand in recent years to change Aunt Jemima’s likeness from a mammy caricature with a kerchief on her head to a more modern woman with pearls and delicate curls. But as racial tensions across the nation continue to heighten and conversations around racial structures and stereotypes continue to be had, more brands are recognizing their own involvement in upholding such systems of oppression.

Old Aunt Jemima packaging

“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,” Kristin Kroepfl, vice president and chief marketing officer of Quaker Foods North America, said in a press release.

The decision by Quaker Oats, which is owned by parent company PepsiCo, comes on the heels of renewed criticism from several social media users who are calling out the brand for its racist history. On an interview with Today, Riché Richardson, an associate professor of African-American literature in the Africana Studies and Research Center at Cornell University, said that Aunt Jemima’s retrograde image of Black womanhood “harkens back to the antebellum plantation,” adding that it is “premised on this idea of Black inferiority and otherness.”

That thinking is what led renowned artist Betye Saar in 1972 to reenvision the minstrel caricature for what is now her most iconic work. “The Liberation of Aunt Jemima” gives the mammy figure a makeover, reimaging her as a gun-toting revolutionary, rebelling against her past enslavement. Academic and activist Angela Davis once said of the piece that the Black women’s movement started with this work. 

Years later, that work is still not over.  

Pepsi said that in addition to scrubbing the name and likeness of Aunt Jemima from the packaging, the company will be donating $5 million to create “meaningful, ongoing support and engagement in the Black community.”  

TOPICS: