Last Wednesday, the Quaker Oats Company announced that it would be terminating the Aunt Jemima brand as we know it. Here’s part of the company’s statement:
Aunt Jemima brand is removing its image from packaging and changing the brand name. This step is in line with PepsiCo’s journey toward racial equality, and the evolution will help carry the 130-year-old brand into the future.
Thursday and Friday, the companies behind Uncle Ben’s, Mrs. Butterworth’s, Cream of Wheat, and Eskimo Pie followed suit with similar announcements.
I’m very happy about all of this, but I’m particularly interested in the end of Aunt Jemima, because that brand is inextricably linked with a distinctive first name. In fact, I’d guess that, for the vast majority of Americans, the first thing they think of when they hear or see the name “Jemima” is Aunt Jemima syrup.
So now I have some questions for you…
Do you think the name’s strong association with the brand — which was established in 1889 and well-known by the mid-1910s — dissuaded parents from using Jemima as a baby name during the 20th century? (And, if so, do you think the usage of Jemima could possibly be seen as a gauge of racism in the U.S.?)
Once the brand name changes, how long before the name’s association with a racial stereotype finally fades away?
Sources: Uncle Ben’s, Mrs. Butterworth’s and Cream of Wheat review branding after Aunt Jemima announces name change, Aunt Jemima – Wikipedia, Dreyer’s to drop “derogatory” Eskimo Pie name after 99 years