CHICAGO (CBS Chicago/CBS News/CNN)– Quaker Oats will be removing the image of Aunt Jemima from its products and changing the brand name.
Officials for the Chicago-based company said they “recognize Aunt Jemima’s origins are based on a racial stereotype.”
The name change will be announced at a later date follow packaging changes.
“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,” said Kristin Kroepfl, Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, Quaker Foods North America.
Parent company PepsiCo announced, the Aunt Jemima brand will donate a minimum of $5 million over the next five years “to create meaningful, ongoing support and engagement in the Black community.”
The Aunt Jemima brand has existed for over 130 years. The world first met Aunt Jemima pancakes at the Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition, in 1893. Over the years actresses portrayed the character, including Anna Robinson at the second Chicago World’s Fair, the Century of Progress Exposition, in 1933.
Aunt Jemima’s appearance has evolved over time. The brand’s origin and logo is based off the song “Old Aunt Jemima” from a minstrel show performer and reportedly sung by slaves. The company’s website said the logo started in 1890 and was based on Nancy Green, a “storyteller, cook and missionary worker.” However, the website fails to mention Green was born into slavery.
According to the company’s online history, “Aunt Jemima pancakes stand for warmth, nourishment and trust, qualities you will find in loving moms from diverse backgrounds who want the very best for their families.”
But there have been repeated calls for the company to change the logo. In a 2015 opinion piece published in the New York Times, Cornell University professor Riché Richardson said the logo is “very much linked to Southern racism.”
Richardson said the Aunt Jemima logo is based on a “’mammy,’ a devoted and submissive servant who eagerly nurtured the children of her white master and mistress while neglecting her own.” A statue of a slave mammy stereotype was approved by the US Senate in 1923, but it was never built.
The company also ran racist ads for several decades, with actresses personifying the mammy stereotype. It evolved the logo over the years, and even hired singer Gladys Knight as a spokeswoman in the 1990s.
In 2017, the husband of the late B. Smith called on the company to change it and said it was the epitome of “female humiliation.”
The Aunt Jemima image has also long been a point of contention. In 2014, a family claiming to be the descendants of Anna Short Harrington, a woman who portrayed Aunt Jemima in the 1930s, sued Quaker Oats for $2 billion.
The family alleged the company that owned the brand made a promise to pay their great-grandmother a percentage of the profits, reported CBS News correspondent Jericka Duncan. “She was developed a long time ago as a kind of a group of stereotypes distilled into a single person,” Adweek writer Sam Thielmann said on “CBS This Morning.”
Although the illustrations of Aunt Jemima evolved over the years, the family said it was their relative’s image that made the brand famous. “In the late ’80s it was decided maybe the headscarf was too much,” Thielmann said. “They took the scarf and gave her a straight forward hairdo.”
Not only did Harrington’s family say Quaker stole her image, their lawsuit also alleged Quaker Oats stole recipes from Harrington in the 1930s and failed to pay her royalties on products bearing her image. They said she had a contract with the company that was never honored. The suit was later dismissed by a Chicago judge.
Contributing: The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2020 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved