Goodbye Aunt Jemima. Hello Pearl Milling Company.
Quaker Oats announced in June that it would drop Aunt Jemima from syrup and pancake packages, responding to criticism that the character's origins were based on the “mammy,” a stereotype of a Black woman rooted in the Civil War era who was portrayed as content to serve her white masters.
In a statement released Tuesday, PepsiCo, which owns the Quaker Oats brand, explained the origins of the new name.
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“Though new to store shelves, Pearl Milling Company was founded in 1888 in St. Joseph, Missouri, and was the originator of the iconic self-rising pancake mix that would later become known as Aunt Jemima,” the company said.
Quaker Oats added the new name was workshopped with “consumers, employees, external cultural and subject-matter experts, and diverse agency partners,” and “developed with inclusivity in mind.” It also plans to make a $1 million “commitment to empower and uplift Black girls and women.”
While the change is sure to be hailed by many, relatives of former Aunt Jemima spokeswomen said last year they were concerned their family history would be erased as Quaker Oats moved to rebrand the syrup and pancake mix.
"I understand the images that white America portrayed us years ago. They painted themselves Black and they portrayed that as us," Vera Harris, whose great aunt, Lillian Richard, traveled the country promoting the Quaker Oats brand and portraying the Aunt Jemima character for more than 20 years, told NBC News. "I understand what Quaker Oats is doing because I'm Black and I don't want a negative image promoted, however, I just don't want her legacy lost, because if her legacy is swept under the rug and washed away, it's as if she never was a person."
Aunt Jemima is just one of the iconic brand names to fall in recent months as a spotlight was placed on corporate brands and team names that were based on racist or insensitive imagery. From the Washington Football Team to other corporate brands like Land O' Lakes, Mrs. Butterworth and Eskimo Pies, a number of companies altered course in 2020 saying they would change the names of their well-known brands.