Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben’s, Cream of Wheat Mrs. Butterworth’s Reveal Name Change Plans: A Look Back At Their Racist Origins
For 131 years, Aunt Jemima’s syrup and pancake mix have been a breakfast staple in American homes. But behind the smiley face featured on these products lies a story of African-American slavery and oppression.
Following international protests against the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and Rayshard Brooks, and days before June 19, the celebration of the end of slavery in the United States, PepsiCo PEP,
announced on Wednesday that it would remove the image of Aunt Jemima from its packaging and change the name of the brand, acknowledging its racist origins.
“Aunt Jemima, like other depictions of Mammy, portrayed African American women as one-dimensional maids. Despite this, many Americans nostalgically associate it with fond family memories. For me, I see the vestiges of slavery and segregation.
Wednesday afternoon, Mrs. Butterworth’s CAG,
announced that it had “begun a comprehensive review of Ms. Butterworth’s brand and packaging,” according to a statement from its parent company, Conagra Brands. “Mrs. Butterworth’s brand, including its syrup packaging, is meant to evoke images of a loving grandmother,” he said. “We stand in solidarity with our black and brown communities and we can see that our packaging can be interpreted in a way that is totally incompatible with our values.”
Also on Wednesday, BGS Cream of Wheat,
announced “an immediate review of the packaging of the Cream of Wheat brand”.
“We understand that there are concerns about the chef’s image, and we are committed to evaluating our packaging and will take proactive steps to ensure that we and our brands do not inadvertently contribute to systemic racism,” a- he said in a statement. “B&G Foods unequivocally opposes prejudices and injustices of all kinds. “
Quaker Foods North America did not use the word racist in its official statement. “We recognize that Aunt Jemima’s origins are based on a racial stereotype,” said Kristin Kroepfl, vice president and chief marketing officer for the company. “While work has been done over the years to update the brand in a proper and respectful manner, we realize that these changes are not enough. “
Kroepfl added: “We recognize that the brand has not progressed enough to appropriately reflect the confidence, warmth and dignity that we would like it to represent today. We start by removing the image and changing the name. We’ll continue the conversation by bringing together diverse perspectives from our organization and the Black community to further evolve the brand and make one that everyone can be proud to have in their pantry. “
Hours later, Mars Inc., the parent company of Uncle Ben’s Rice, said it would “evolve the brand’s visual identity.”
“As we listen to the voices of consumers, especially in the black community, and the voices of our associates around the world, we recognize that the time has come to evolve the Uncle Ben’s brand, including its brand visual identity. , what we will do. “said Caroline Sherman, a spokesperson for Mars.
PepsiCo’s elimination of the Aunt Jemima character is long overdue, said David Pilgrim, director of the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia at Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Michigan. The museum features Pilgrim’s own collection of over 2,000 racist artifacts, including white-only signs, postcards commemorating the lynchings, and an entire section devoted to Mammy’s caricatures.
Tracing back to slavery in the days of Jim Crow, White Southerners, in an effort to justify having slaves, devised propaganda that showed black women in particular as happy and full of laughter “as proof. of the supposed humanity of the institution of slavery ”.
Tracing back to slavery in the days of Jim Crow, White Southerners, in an effort to justify having slaves, devised propaganda that showed black women in particular as happy and full of laughter “as proof. of supposed humanity from the institution of slavery, “Pilgrim said in an online blog Publish.
“The caricature depicts an obese, rude mother figure. She had a great love for her white “family”, but often treated her own family with disdain. Although she had children, sometimes many, she was completely desexualized. She “belonged” to the white family, although this was rarely said.
One of Mammy’s best-known figures is Aunt Jemima, a fictional character on which the brand is based.
“Aunt Jemima’s caricature was a product of the white imagination and minstrel performances of 19th century America,” said Gregory Smithers, professor of history at Commonwealth University of Virginia. “Aunt Jemima was also part of the ‘blackface’ tradition which, in the decades following the Civil War, recalled a simpler era of plantations and ‘happy slaves’.”
At the end of the 19th century, marketing agencies began to commodify racism and make it profitable, Smithers, who co-authored the book “Racism in American Popular Media: From Aunt Jemima to the Frito Bandito”. This dynamic “harkens back to the racial and economic order of the early 19th century, when slave markets were ubiquitous in the United States.”
Prior to Friday, the Cream of Wheat site had several advertisements dating back to the early 1900s that the company listed as “Our Favorite Memories.” One painting showed five African-American children, four of whom were barefoot in a classroom standing near a teacher’s desk engraved with a Cream of Wheat label.
Prior to Friday, the Cream of Wheat site had several advertisements from the early 1900s that the company listed as “Our Favorite Memories.” One of the photos was a 1917 painting titled “Who Can Spell Cream of wheat?”. The painting showed five African American children, four of whom were barefoot in a classroom standing near a teacher’s desk engraved with a Cream of Wheat label.
Other images showed black slaves and were used to sell cream of wheat, “but they do so in a way that reinforced the racial order of the day,” Smithers said. “The goal was to use these racialized tropes to build brand loyalty.”
Labeling these images as our favorite memories is problematic and “plays into the racist tropes of previous eras,” Smithers added. “If they contextualize the images, they have value in understanding the visual cultures of racism, but if they are online without that context, I would question the management of their digital archives. “
Since MarketWatch contacted B&G Foods, the company has removed several images, including “Who Can Spell Cream of wheat?”. He also added lots of images and changed the title “Our Favorite Memories” on the About Site page to “Historical Advertisements”.
B&G spokesman Matthew Lindberg declined to comment directly on the decision.
The branded model featured on Aunt Jemima’s products has been replaced twice. Once in 1933 with Anna Robinson, a heavier and darker complexing model than Nancy Green, a Kentucky slave who was the original figure of the Aunt Jemima brand. After Robinson came Edith Wilson in the 1960s, who played Aunt Jemima in radio and television shows. Wilson has remained on Aunt Jemima’s products until today, although in recent years “has undergone a makeover: her skin is lighter and the handkerchief has been removed from her head. She now has the appearance of an attractive maid – not a Jim Crow-era mom, ”Pilgrim wrote.
At the end of the 19th century, marketing agencies began to commodify racism and make it profitable. This dynamic “harkens back to the racial and economic order of the early 19th century, when slave markets were ubiquitous in the United States.”
“Aunt Jemima, like other depictions of Mammy, portrayed African American women as one-dimensional maids,” Pilgrim, a former sociology professor, told MarketWatch. “Despite this, many Americans nostalgically associate it with fond family memories.”
“For me, I see the remnants of slavery and segregation,” said Pilgrim, who is black and raised in Mobile, Alabama, where he began collecting racist artifacts when he was 12. .
“Anything that reduces African Americans to a caricature, with the stereotypes that go with it, is problematic,” he said. This applies to Uncle Ben’s Rice, Mrs. Butterworth’s and Cream of Wheat, which have racist overtones similar to Aunt Jemima’s.
The black figures featured on these products “are a remnant of the horrific days when black people were relegated to servant roles,” Pilgrim said. “There is nothing inherently wrong with serving others, but when these were the dominant images of blacks, it was easier to dismiss African Americans as real people.”