Quaker Oats announced in the wake of protests and the growing awareness of companies and respected figures with ties to slavery and racist backstories that it would be changing its Aunt Jemima logo. In doing so, relatives of Lillian Richards, who was the model for the brand's mascot, expressed their concern about her legacy potentially slipping away.
Speaking with NBC News, Vera Harris, whose great aunt was the spokeswoman, said she understood the reason for the change, saying that, "they painted themselves Black and they portrayed that as us." She added she doesn't want a "negative image portrayed" as the face of the company, but she doesn't want Richards' legacy to be forgotten. "If her legacy is swept under the rug and washed away, it's as if she never was a person," Harris explained. She expanded on the story of how her great aunt landed the role, saying she took the job to "support herself," which entailed traveling the country to promote the product. Her family remains "proud" of her and all she accomplished despite the racist stereotype associated with the imagery. "She was an intelligent, young, vital, beautiful Black woman that took the job," Harris stated, saying that she was well aware of the time period she lived in and that it simply came down to the fact that her great aunt wanted to have a job.
The company reportedly didn't consult with the family first about the decision to change the logo, but Harris did share that they're working on a potential way to commemorate her in a more appropriate fashion. Richards has a historical marker in her hometown of Hawkins, Texas, that honors her career. Richards passed away in 1956 after spending 23 years working with the company.
Following public backlash, Quaker Oats didn't take long to reveal it would be switching up its look and doing so in the fall. The brand has been around for 130 years, with the logo changing at least five times. The first design was portrayed by Nancy Green, who previously was enslaved.
Quaker Oats wasn't the only company that opted to make a change to its longtime company. Uncle Ben and Cream of Wheat both shared their plans on switching up their brand's look. Previously, Land O' Lakes had removed its Native American woman from its packaging. Conagra Brands, which owns Mrs. Buttersworth, has also taken their logo under reconsideration, even releasing a statement to USA Today.