Aunt Jemima — now known as Pearl Milling Company — has finally been given a makeover (see it below)! The 131-year-old syrup and pancake mix brand showed off its new look on Feb. 9 — several months after parent company Quaker Foods North America acknowledged that its origins were based on a “racial stereotype.” The products were given a makeover, complete with a new name and packaging after massive backlash online amidst the nationwide protests for racial equality in 2020. Here’s what you should know about the origins of the controversial brand, and why it was renamed:
1. Quaker Foods said they realized their “updates” over the years to the brand weren’t sufficient. “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 in June 2020. “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. 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.”
2. The logo and name are based on a minstrel show act. “Old Aunt Jemima” is a minstrel song by a blackface performer named Billy Kersands, which was reportedly sung by slaves. Aunt Jemima became a brand in 1890, and was established as a trademark by the Quaker Oats Company in 1925. Aunt Jemima was “first brought to life by Nancy Green, a storyteller, cook, and missionary worker,” according to the brand’s website. What they don’t mention is that Nancy was also born into slavery.
3. The brand has gone under makeovers in the past. Aunt Jemima got an update in 1989, amid criticism that her look perpetuated Jim Crow-era stereotypes. The kerchief around her neck was removed, and she was given a lace collar and pearl earrings and was portrayed slimmer.
4. Aunt Jemima is being pulled after online protests. A viral TikTok (watch below) from a singer named Kirby kicked things off. The video, titled How To Make A Non Racist Breakfast, Kirby grabs a box of Aunt Jemima pancake mix from her fridge and explains the history of the brand. She ends the clip by saying, “Black lives matter, people, even over breakfast.”
— KIRBY (@singkirbysing) June 15, 2020
5. The revamped product will debut in fall 2020. A new name replacing Aunt Jemima will be announced at a later date, according to Quaker. The company also pledged to donate $5 million over the next five years “to create meaningful, ongoing support and engagement in the Black community.”