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Race and Economy

Quaker Oats is retiring the Aunt Jemima brand because of its origins in “a racial stereotype”

David Brancaccio, Marielle Segarra, and Alex Schroeder Jun 17, 2020
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The branding of Aunt Jemima actually goes back to the late 1800s, and was used to evoke a common racist caricature of Black women. Mike Mozart/Flickr via Creative Commons
Race and Economy

Quaker Oats is retiring the Aunt Jemima brand because of its origins in “a racial stereotype”

David Brancaccio, Marielle Segarra, and Alex Schroeder Jun 17, 2020
Heard on:
The branding of Aunt Jemima actually goes back to the late 1800s, and was used to evoke a common racist caricature of Black women. Mike Mozart/Flickr via Creative Commons
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Quaker Oats has announced that Aunt Jemima, the syrup and pancake mix brand, will be dropping its name and image as the conversation continues over racial injustice in policing and American society.

Marketplace’s Marielle Segarra is following the story. She joined “Marketplace Morning Report” host David Brancaccio, and the following is an edited transcript of their conversation.

Marielle Segarra: If you get a bottle of Aunt Jemima pancake syrup, you’ll see the image of a Black woman wearing a white shirt and pearl earrings. But that is the just the latest version. The brand actually goes back to the late 1800s.

And the history ⁠— because it’s important to know our history ⁠— is this: The company that owned the brand at the time hired a woman named Nancy Green to model for the box. She was a former slave. And her smiling image was used to evoke a really common racist caricature of Black women known as the “mammy” stereotype. The Jim Crow Museum describes it as the idea that Black women were “contented, even happy as slaves.” It’s obviously incredibly offensive. And you saw the same caricature in “Gone with the Wind” and lots of other films.

And even the name of the brand itself — Aunt Jemima — comes from a minstrel show. During minstrel shows, white people performed in blackface and tried to make a joke out of Black people.

David Brancaccio: And people have been calling for Quaker, a subsidiary of Pepsi, to change this logo for years.

Segarra: Yeah, and up until now, the company hasn’t been interested in that or in really even acknowledging this history. But now the Quaker Foods chief marketing officer says the company recognizes that this brand is “based on a racial stereotype.” And the new packaging will appear in the fall.

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