After 131 years, Aunt Jemima syrup and pancake mix will be getting a makeover. On Wednesday, Quaker Oats, a subsidiary of PepsiCo, announced that it would be changing the name of the beloved breakfast items as well as the packaging as "Aunt Jemima's origins are based on a racial stereotype."
In a statement obtained by AL.com, Kristin Kroepfl, vice president and chief marketing officer of Quaker Foods North America, said that the company "must take a hard look at our portfolio of brands and ensure they reflect our values and meet our consumers’ expectations" as they "work to make progress toward racial equality through several initiatives." As part of that initiative, Aunt Jemima will undergo a makeover as they "acknowledge the brand has not progressed enough to appropriately reflect the confidence, warmth and dignity that we would like it to stand for today."
According to CNN, Aunt Jemima's origin and logo is based off the song "Old Aunt Jemima" from a minstrel show performer, and the company's website states that the logo was created around 1890 and was based on Nancy Green, a "storyteller, cook and missionary worker" who had formerly been enslaved. The logo, which has appeared on boxes for more than a century, with minor changes throughout the years, features a smiling Black woman, an image that many have criticized for depicting a racist stereotype dating back to slavery.
Over time, that image has changed in response to the outcry, with NBC News reporting that Quaker Oats removed the "mammy" kerchief from the character. In 2017, the husband of restaurateur B. Smith called on Quaker Oats to change the packaging, stating that it was the epitome of "female humiliation." Such calls have only grown louder in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd and the global protests against police brutality and systemic racism that have followed.
In their Wednesday announcement, Quaker Oats said that new packaging would begin to appear in the fall of 2020. A new name for the brand will be revealed at a later date. The company promised to "continue the conversation by gathering diverse perspectives from both our organization and the Black community to further evolve the brand and make it one everyone can be proud to have in their pantry." Quaker Oats will also be donating at least $5 million over the next five years "to create meaningful, ongoing support and engagement in the Black community."