Aunt Jemima’s logo has changed 6 times, and its history is rooted in racial stereotypes and slavery — check out how the brand started and evolved over 130 years

Jessica Snouwaert – Jun 17, 2020, 4:59 PM – Business Insider

Aunt Jemima Logo
Bottles of Aunt Jemima syrup. 
  • PepsiCo’s pancake brand Aunt Jemima will no longer use its picture of a Black woman or the name “Aunt Jemima.”
  • Its logo has changed six times, and the brand’s past is rooted in racial stereotypes and slavery.

Aunt Jemima is changing its name and logo after 130 years of using a Black woman as the staple feature of the brand’s marketing.

The brand’s parent company PepsiCo acknowledged the brand was ingrained in racist symbolism despite past attempts to update the imagery. The company anticipates new packaging will appear on the shelves later this year, and a new name will follow.

“We recognize Aunt Jemima’s origins are based on a racial stereotype,” Kristin Kroepfl, Quaker Foods North America’s chief marketing officer, said in a statement. “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.”

Read on to see the history of Aunt Jemima and the changes that happened leading up to this week’s announcement.

The Aunt Jemima brand was created in 1889 by Chris Rutt and Charles Underwood, two white men, to market their ready-made pancake flour. The origin of the company’s imagery and branding is steeped in racist stereotypes symbolizing submissiveness and asexuality, Riché Richardson wrote in The New York Times.

Aunt Jemima

To read more about Aunt Jemima, visit The New York Times.

Rutt, one of the company’s cofounders, got the idea for the name and logo after watching a vaudeville show in which the performer sang a song called “Aunt Jemima” in an apron, head bandana, and blackface, according to the African American Registry.

Aunt Jemima

To read more about this history, visit the African American Registry.

The origin of the Aunt Jemima brand is rooted in the old Southern plantation stereotypes of the “mammy” — a figure portrayed as a devoted servant, according to The New York Times.

Aunt Jemima Ad

To read more about Aunt Jemima, visit The New York Times.

The two founders of Aunt Jemima, in need of money, sold the company to the R.T. Davis Milling Co. in 1890. From there, the company tried to find someone to be a living trademark for the company, according to the African American Registry.

Aunt Jemima Ad

To read more about this history, visit the African American Registry.

Nancy Green became the face of the product as the company’s first Black corporate model in the US in 1893 at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Green was born a slave in Kentucky, according to the African American Registry. She was a storyteller, cook, and missionary.

Nancy Green - Aunt Jemima

To read more about Nancy Green, visit the African American Registry.

Quaker Oats Co. bought the company in 1925. They later trademarked the logo, making it one of the longest-running logos and trademarks in the history of American advertising, according to Richardson.

Aunt Jemima Ad
A 1940s print ad for Aunt Jemima products. 

To read more about Aunt Jemima, visit The New York Times.

Different women took on the role of representing the character of Aunt Jemima over the course of the brand’s history, including Aylene Lewis, Anna Robinson, and Lou Blanchard, according to the brand’s website.

Aunt Jemima Advertising
Lou Blanchard. 

To see a timeline of the history, visit the brand’s website.

The most updated version of the brand image added pearl earrings and a white collar to the Aunt Jemima character, according to Chicago Tribune. The Aunt Jemima logo changed six times before it was retired in 2020.

Aunt Jemima Logo
Bottles of Aunt Jemima syrup. 

To read more about the changes in the Aunt Jemima imagery, visit the Chicago Tribune.

AT AGE 100, A NEW AUNT JEMIMA

By Janet Key – Chicago Tribune Apr 28, 1989 at 12:00 am

Aunt Jemima is going to have a new look, her first in 21 years.

The familiar figure on pancake mixes and syrup will have a new, gray-streaked hair style-minus the headband-pearl earrings and a white lace collar.

The change in Aunt Jemina, now a century old, parallels a similar effort by advertisers and marketers to give Betty Crocker a more modern persona.

”We wanted to present Aunt Jemima in a more contemporary light, while preserving the important attributes of warmth, quality, good taste, heritage and reliability,” said Barbara R. Allen, vice president of Quaker Oats Co., maker of Aunt Jemima products.

Betty Crocker, the 65-year-old trademark on the products and cookbooks of General Mills Inc., has undergone six makeovers, the most recent in 1986. In her latest incarnation, she wears a white, bow-tied blouse and a red jacket.

Aunt Jemima is the country`s leading pancake mix, with 43 percent of the market. Aunt Jemima syrups are also market leaders, with a 21 percent share.

The new design will be phased in, beginning about July 1, on the entire line of 40 Aunt Jemima products, which include pancake mixes, syrups, frozen breakfast products, corn meal and grits, said Quaker Oats spokesman Ron Bottrell.

Her last makeover, which turned the kerchief into a headband, was in 1968. Over the years, six other makeovers have gradually moved Aunt Jemima`s image away from the original-and controversial-slave figure.

However, the name won`t be changed, Bottrell said. ”That kind of familiarity and recognition is an invaluable asset.” Quaker Oats refused to say how much the makeover, done in-house, will cost.

Quaker tested the old and new images with black and white consumers in 12 cities over a five-month period.

The groups described the new Aunt Jemima as a ”young grandmother,” a

”working mother,” ”someone active in the church” and a woman ”who definitely knows how to cook,” Bottrell said.

The original Aunt Jemima Pancake Mix was introduced in 1889 by the R.T. Davis Milling Co. in St. Joseph, Mo. It was the country`s first ready-mix pancake mix.

Acquired by Chicago-based Quaker in 1926, Aunt Jemima products accounted for about $300 million of the company’s 1988 sales of $5.3 billion.

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