PepsiCo plans on changing the iconic Aunt Jemima brand to “Pearl Milling Company” after claiming the “origins are based on a racial stereotype.”
In a press release issued on Tuesday, PepsiCo revealed the line of pancake products will keep its signature red color but will have a new brand name and logo. The Aunt Jemima brand will officially be phased out in June.
The new brand will be named after the Pearl Milling Company, which was founded in 1888 in St. Joseph Missouri and was the first company to release the self-rising pancake mix, which later was known as Aunt Jemima.
Critics have compared to the character as a “mammy” caricature, and some historians believe that the brand was inspired by late 1800’s minstrel shows.
The Quaker Oat Company, which is now owned by PepsiCo, purchased Aunt Jemima in 1925 and has updated the branding multiple times to “remove racial stereotypes that dated back to the brand origins.”
After the removal, descendents of individuals who portrayed Aunt Jemima were not happy about the news, saying it was erasing their family histories.
“This is an injustice for me and my family. This is part of my history, sir,” said Larnell Evans Sr., a great-grandson of Anna Short Harrington, who was one of the Aunt Jemima portrayers. “The racism they talk about, using images from slavery, that comes from the other side — white people. This company profits off images of our slavery. And their answer is to erase my great-grandmother’s history. A black female. … It hurts.”
Harrington started to appear on the company’s products after being discovered by Quaker Oats in 1935, according to Evans. She toured the country serving pancakes while dressed up as Aunt Jemima.
“This woman served all those people, and it was after slavery,” continued Evans. “She worked as Aunt Jemima. That was her job. … How do you think I feel as a black man sitting here telling you about my family history they’re trying to erase?”
Lillian Richard was also hired as a brand ambassador around the same time after being discovered in Dallas, according to the great-niece of Lillian Richard, Vera Harris.
Harris told FOX Business that this job was considered an “honorable job” and that the “Richard family was proud of her.”
The family understands why the company is rebranding, but is concerned about the Richard’s legacy.
“We just don’t want my aunt’s legacy — what she did making an honest living at the time — to be wiped away,” said Harris. “Her story should not be erased from history.”
“If we wipe out our history, we have nothing to strive for in the future,” continued Harris. “Our history will help us prosper in the future.”
Richard worked for Quaker Oats for 23 years until she passed away in 1965.
Quaker Oats has stated that they “acknowledge” the origins of the Aunt Jemima character were “based on a racial stereotype.” A former slave, Nancy Green, was the first face of the brand.
Many brands have pledged to change their packaging, including brands Cream of Wheat, Mrs. Butterworth, and Uncle Ben’s. These decisions were accelerated after George Floyd’s death.
About a month-and-a-half before Floyd’s death, Land O’Lakes removed the iconic Native American character from its packaging.
PepsiCo also stated that they will be putting in a five-year investment of more than $400 million that is designed to “uplift Black business and communities, and increase Black representation at PepsiCo.”
The new Pearl Milling Company is reportedly preparing to announce a $1 million commitment that will “focus on empowering and uplift Black girls and women.”