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Aunt Jemimah will be missed

Kaicie Boeglin

Opinions Editor

Photo via NPR

This controversy is fueled by an art of storytelling. Opinions are based on the first story told and the intensity portrayed with it. All beginnings set precedents but endings are sometimes misplaced and facts forgotten. The initial thought of Aunt Jemima, which most see as racist, offered an opportunity depending on how it was carried out. Mammy and Uncle Tom stereotypes have a spectrum of effects casting a range of opinions.

The Aunt Jemima logo has been one of the longest running logos and trademarks in the advertising business. Aunt Jemima was officially trademarked by the Quaker Oats Company in 1937 and the syrup was introduced by the company in 1966. The brand itself was founded by the Pearl Milling Company in 1888 as "the first ready mix." The founding company is where the new brand title of Pearl Milling Company comes from.

Ideas for Aunt Jemima originated from a black-faced character in an entertainment show developed during the mid-1850s. The show portrayal was done by a white male dressed as a black woman. The original caricature for the brand was that of Nancy Green. Born into slavery, Green grew into a life of mammy culture. For the 1893 World Fair Green was hired to play a live role of Aunt Jemima. Racism and mammy culture was the norm but paying an African American was not. Although her wage was small, she was paid for her services and the use of her face. This role was given to her while she worked for a prominent white family in Chicago.

Green turned into a national icon and American model. She used her platform to show activism against slavery and the pancake company still chose to employ her until her death. By removing the Aunt Jemima logo we are removing a piece of black history and Green's legacy. The Quaker Oats company has made changes to the logo resulting in the ones being taken off shelves today. This started as a racial stereotype but became a reminder of hope, determination, family traditions as well as what we’ve evolved from. No one can deny this nation was built upon slavery, so is this censorship through advertising beneficial or desensitizing?

The fact she was referred to as “aunt” shows respect. The company could have been vile and concocted a name with the title mammy, but “aunt” showed a relation to the family. Care and consideration is shown through using the word “aunt.”

The decision to revoke the brand title and logo has the nation questioning more household brands. There is much to say about Mrs. Butterworth’s grandmother packaging which resembles a black woman. Uncle Ben's rice is under scrutiny as a classic Uncle Tom stereotype. The brand Land O’ Lakes has already removed their native logo within the last few years and Cream of Wheat elected to go next. If Nestles Eskimo Pie needs to remove the eskimo logo, Quaker Oats should remove the Quaker logo. These trademarks are more for history than they are for advertising, therefore the removal is redundant. The logos that make it big are the ones best remembered from childhood till death. The removal of trademarks associated with historical groups may equal out and unify society, but takes away anything unique from having an ethnicity. We need to know the differences, understand their origin and how to learn from/rise above them.

It is unethical to have Aunt Jemima removed from the box and separated from the legacy of Green, but the moralistic majority urges it. The idea came about from blackface and Green was born into slavery, but the beginning doesn't justify the ending. Green was one of the first African American women who was paid and able to become an activist. Aunt Jemima's run was set to die June 17, 2020 and will be completely removed from shelves by June 2021. The logo has already vanished and the name will have disappeared by June.

The current Aunt Jemima and current Pearl Milling Company website leaves breakfast lovers with, "We are committed to progress.This includes removing the image of Aunt Jemima and changing our name. Our new name is coming to shelves in 2021 with the same great recipe you know and love."


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