It’s an historic day for all Americans … who love pancakes — “Aunt Jemima” is officially out, and Pearl Milling Company is in.
PepsiCo — the parent company of the syrup giant — announced today it is “starting a new day with Pearl Milling Company … rooted in the brand’s historic beginnings and its mission to create moments that matter at the breakfast table.”
That’s a lot of corporate-speak for … we scrapped “Aunt Jemima” and created a new logo that’s still tied to history, but without the stereotyped image of a Black woman with a headscarf in the kitchen.
PepsiCo filed to trademark the new logo on February 1.
You’ll recall, last summer the company said Jemima had to go after it took a look at all its brands to “ensure they reflect our values and meet our consumers’ expectations.”
It’s a reckoning several companies had in the wake of George Floyd’s death, and a national outcry for racial equality.
The company said it understands it actions ‘help play an important role in eliminating racial bias.’
According to the PR Museum, the term ‘aunt’ and ‘uncle’ in this context refers to how white southerners addressed older black people or African American slaves because they refused to give them courtesy titles such as ‘miss’ or ‘mister’.
Aunt Jemima, which has been face of the pancake and syrup brand for over 131 years, had also received criticism over the prolonged use of the character which is based on the mammy – a black woman who worked for white families, nursing their children.
The Aunt Jemima character has long been associated with racism and slavery, as it comes from a vaudeville era song ‘Old Aunt Jemima’ and is based off the mammy.
Her image has evolved over the years to meet socially acceptable standards of the times, but the brand could not shake its history of racial stereotypes and connections to slavery.
By 1989, Aunt Jemima had lost weight, abandoned her kerchief and looked more like a typical modern housewife. But the image and brand tweaks over the years were not enough.
The changes of both products have been lauded by people on social media, including black celebrities such as Tamar Braxton and astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, but some said they were long overdue.
Braxton said she stopped buying Aunt Jemima products and switched over to ‘better’ brand Krusteaz after recognizing its problematic imagery a long time ago.
She tweeted: ‘I know for some [white people] the Aunt Jemima brand being canceled may seem petty. But as a little girl I remember asking my mom, ‘why do they have the slave lady on Gone with the Wind on the pancake box?’ So please miss me with that B.S.’
Neil de Grasse Tyson shared an old comic illustrating the offensive and racist portrayal of Aunt Jemima, and said the character was not just a ‘symbol of a racist past’ but the ‘very embodiment’ of it.
‘She will not be missed by anyone who knew that’, he said.