For 130 years, the Aunt Jemima brand featured a black woman named Aunt Jemima, who was originally dressed as a minstrel character. The brand’s name is based off an old minstrel song, “Old Aunt Jemima,” composed in 1875 by Billy Kersands, an African-American comedian and minstrel show performer.
Nancy Green, who was formerly enslaved, was employed in the 1890s to promote the Aunt Jemima brand by demonstrating the pancake mix at expositions and fairs. She was a popular attraction because of her friendly personality, storytelling skills and warmth. Green signed a lifetime contract with the pancake company, and her image was used for packaging and ads.
Aunt Jemima had many makeovers over the years. In 1966 when the brand launched a new syrup, pearl earrings and a lace collar replaced the original headscarf, which recalled the Mammy image of Black women as domestic servants, a stereotype that wasn’t limited to the Aunt Jemima brand. In Gone with the Wind, Hattie McDaniels won an Academy Award in 1939 for her portrayal of “Mammy.”
Now Quaker Oats, the manufacturer of the Aunt Jemima brand has decided in the wake of the social unrest surrounding the death of George Floyd and other blacks in police-related events, to remove the image of the black woman from the brand “to make progress toward racial equality.” Quaker Oaks said that it is in the process of rebranding Aunt Jemima.
The Uncle Ben’s rice brand is also planning to replace its image of an older Black man dressed in a bow tie. According to Mars Food, the maker of the Uncle Ben’s brand, the Black man is based on a South Carolina rice grower.
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