Aunt Jemima Officially Renamed After Dropping “Racial Stereotype”
The company announced its new name, Pearl Milling Company, which references origins that date back more than 130 years.
The popular breakfast brand formerly known as Aunt Jemima is officially changing its name to Pearl Milling Company, after the company last year recognized the Aunt Jemima name and image was “based on a racial stereotype” following decades of criticism.
The company announced Tuesday that the new brand, Pearl Milling Company, is named after the original mill where Aunt Jemima products started more than 130 years ago. Items with the Pearl Milling Company logo will arrive in stores by June — a year after the Quaker Oats Company, a subsidiary of PepsiCo and the parent company of Aunt Jemima, said it would drop the brand’s name and packaging. The new imagery will retain similar colors and style to the original packaging.
“Pearl Milling Company was a small mill in the bustling town of St. Joseph, Missouri,” the company wrote on its website. “Using a pearl milling technique, they produced flour, cornmeal, and, beginning in 1889, the famous self-rising pancake mix that would go on to be known as Aunt Jemima.”
In a statement last June, a company executive acknowledged the brand was based on a racial stereotype.
“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,” Kristin Kroepfl, Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of Quaker Foods North America said.
The company also said Tuesday that it would announce further details about a “$1 million commitment to empower and uplift Black girls and women.” The company last June had pledged “a $5 million commitment to support the Black community,” it said.
Aunt Jemima was created in 1889 when two white men, Chris Rutt and Charles Underwood, developed the ready-made pancake mix, eventually developing other breakfast products including syrup. The creators based the brand on a minstrel song “Old Aunt Jemima.” As the singer Kirby described it, “think blackface.”
The brand has long faced criticism for its portrayal of a Black woman. Writer and actor Vertamae Grosvenor called Aunt Jemima a “negative American myth” during a 1980 NPR segment. The brand removed a headscarf from Aunt Jemima in 1989, which appeared in the original image on products and as part of the costume worn by actors portraying her. The piece of clothing is typically associated with a stereotypical “mammy” figure — a woman who was a “figment of the white imagination” and has roots in the U.S. slavery era.
The brand change over the summer came as the U.S. saw months long protests over systemic racism and police brutality following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Several other brands and organizations including Land O’ Lakes, Mrs. Butterworth’s, Uncle Ben’s, Cream of Wheat, and The Washington Football Team have undergone transformations in the last year to move away from racist imagery and names.