The Aunt Jemima brand will get a new name and a new image.
Aunt Jemima, the syrup and pancake mix brand, will change its name and image amid an ongoing backlash, with its parent company Quaker Oats acknowledging that the brand’s origins are “based on a racial stereotype.”
The brand, founded in 1889, is built on images of a black female character that have often been criticized as offensive. Even after going through several redesigns — pearl earrings and a lace collar were added in 1989 — Aunt Jemima was still seen by many as a symbol of slavery.
On Wednesday, Quaker Oats, which is owned by PespiCo, said that it was taking “a hard look at our portfolio of brands” as it worked “to make progress toward racial equality through several initiatives.”
The packaging changes, which were first reported by NBC, will begin to appear toward the end of this year, with the name change coming soon after.
“While work has been done over the years to update the brand in a manner intended to be appropriate and respectful, we realize those changes are not enough,” said Kristin Kroepfl, Quaker’s chief marketing officer, in a statement.
Amid nationwide protests over racism and police brutality in recent weeks, many companies rushed to express their solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, often running into accusations of hypocrisy. But PepsiCo was already familiar with the fallout — in 2017, it apologized for running an ad featuring Kendall Jenner, a white model, that was criticized for trivializing the movement.
PepsiCo bought Quaker Oats in 2001, inheriting the Aunt Jemima brand. Ramon Laguarta, the chief executive of PepsiCo, wrote in a piece in Fortune this week that “the journey for racial equality has long been part of our company’s DNA.”
The Aunt Jemima brand was inspired by a minstrel song called “Old Aunt Jemima” and was once described by Riché Richardson, an associate professor of African-American literature in the Africana Studies and Research Center at Cornell University, as “an outgrowth of Old South plantation nostalgia and romance grounded in an idea about the ‘mammy,’ a devoted and submissive servant who eagerly nurtured the children of her white master and mistress while neglecting her own.”
The anger in the days after George Floyd’s killing is fueling a national movement to topple perceived symbols of racism and oppression in the United States, as protests over police brutality against African-Americans expand to include demands for a more honest accounting of American history.
In Portland, Ore., demonstrators protesting police killings turned their ire to Thomas Jefferson, toppling a statue of the founding father who also enslaved more than 600 people.
In Richmond, Va., a statue of the Italian navigator and colonizer Christopher Columbus was spray-painted, set on fire and thrown into a lake.
And in Albuquerque, tensions over a statue of Juan de Oñate, a 16th-century colonial governor exiled from New Mexico over cruel treatment of Native Americans, erupted in street skirmishes and a blast of gunfire before the monument was removed on Tuesday.
Across the country, monuments criticized as symbols of historical oppression have been defaced and brought down at warp speed in recent days. The movement, which initially set its sights on Confederate symbols and examples of racism against African-Americans, has since exploded into a broader cultural moment, forcing a reckoning over issues such as European colonization and the oppression of Native Americans.
“We’re at this inflection point,” said Keegan King, a member of Acoma Pueblo, which endured a massacre of 800 or more people directed by Oñate, the brutal Spanish conquistador and colonial governor. The Black Lives Matter movement, he said, had encouraged people to examine the history around them, and not all of it was merely written in books.
The debate over how to represent the uncomfortable parts of American history is not new, but the extent of the monument-toppling in recent days raises new questions about whether it will result in a fundamental shift in how history is taught to new generations.
Senate Republicans will advance a narrow policing bill today.
Senate Republicans on Wednesday morning will unveil their answer to Democrats’ sprawling policing legislation, proposing a narrow set of changes to law enforcement that would place new restrictions on the use of chokeholds, impose penalties for the failure to wear body cameras, and make lynching a federal crime.
The measure is spearheaded by Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, the Senate’s only African-American Republican, who has become increasingly focused on matters of race in recent years and has led the effort to bring his party together around a proposal to answer a growing public movement to address systemic racism in policing that has placed Republicans on the defensive.
Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, is expected to announce whether the Senate will take up the bill before lawmakers leave for the July 4 recess, a swift timeline that reflects a sense of urgency.
But the limited reach of the legislation, a draft of which was obtained by The New York Times, reflects the challenge facing Republicans. While they have scrambled to show their willingness to move on policing changes for the first time in years, they are unwilling to accept the far-reaching federal measures that civil rights activists say are necessary to confront systemic bias in policing.
Democrats will push their own legislation through the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, advancing an expansive bill that would place an outright ban on chokeholds, change the qualified immunity doctrine that shields police officers from lawsuits, and make it easier to identify, track and prosecute police misconduct.
Throughout the past several weeks, as protests over the killing of George Floyd rippled through America’s cities, a 79-year-old retired schoolteacher has spent her days watching the news in her home in Albany, Ga., sometimes with tears running down her face.
For Rutha Mae Harris, who once marched and was jailed with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., it is like revisiting her past.
There have been times when she wondered what her generation had achieved. But the past weeks — particularly the sight of kneeling police officers and throngs of white faces — have offered some redemption.
“I love it, I love it, I love it,” she said. “It has surprised me, and it gives me hope. I thought what I had done was in vain.”
For the dwindling cadre of civil rights activists like Ms. Harris who took to the streets 60 years ago, this is a moment of trepidation and wonder.
In their time, major actions were the result of months of planning, punctuated by all-night arguments over strategy and phone-tree lobbying to get reporters to show up. Five years passed between Emmett Till’s lynching and the Greensboro, N.C., sit-ins. Another year passed between the sit-ins and the Freedom Rides.
Now they are watching another movement unfold at quicksilver speed.
Dr. King’s confidante Bernard Lafayette, 79, could not contain his excitement about recent demonstrations; he has been offering advice to young activists from his home in Tuskegee, Ala. Andrew Young, 88, a former mayor of Atlanta, has vented his frustration over looting and vandalism. And Bob Moses, 85, was cautious in his comments, saying the country seemed to be undergoing an “awakening.”
“I think that’s been its main impact, a kind of revelation about something that has been going on for over a century, a century and a half, right under your noses,” Mr. Moses said. “But there isn’t any indication of how to fix it.”
The anger after George Floyd’s death is fueling a national movement to topple perceived symbols of racism and oppression, including calls to bring down monuments in rural places like Columbus, Miss., where on Monday county officials voted to keep a monument to Confederate soldiers on the lawn in front of the city courthouse.
Activists have renewed their efforts in recent weeks to remove the monument, which was erected more than a century ago. Demonstrations have also protested the decision last month by the state attorney general not to prosecute an officer who had been indicted in the killing of an African-American man in 2015. And a push to change the Mississippi flag, which has the Confederate battle emblem, has gained new momentum.
“It’s commemorating and celebrating a lost battle — I don’t understand,” David Horton, an activist in Columbus who has been involved in all of those efforts, said on Tuesday. “These are things I have to endure all my life as a young African-American man living in Mississippi. It’s always made me feel inferior, it’s always made me feel like I shouldn’t hold my head up.”
Many in Columbus were incensed by comments made to the local newspaper by a white county supervisor who voted against moving the monument. He said that African-Americans had remained “dependent” since slavery.
“In my opinion, they were slaves, and because of that, they didn’t have to go out and earn any money, they didn’t have to do anything,” the county supervisor, Harry Sanders, was quoted as saying. “Whoever owned them, took care of them, fed them, clothed them, worked them. They became dependent, and that dependency is still there. The Democrats right here who depend on the black vote to get elected, they make them dependent on them.”
Trip Hairston, another white county supervisor who also opposed moving the monument, said he was trying to strike a more nuanced position. He said the state flag ought to be changed because “we need a flag that represents all the people,” but he was resistant to moving the monument because he said it represented the area’s history, even if some of it was ugly.
In some ways, Mr. Hairston said, the debate has been good for the community because it has forced people to reckon with the past and confront fixtures of another era that had essentially been hidden in plain sight.
“I think it’s an opportunity to have conversations we haven’t had before,” he said.
Edwin Raymond, a black lieutenant in the Police Department, heard racial insults — “Sellout!” and “Uncle Tom!” — rising above protesters’ chants as he helped to control the crowds at recent demonstrations in Brooklyn against police brutality and racism.
He said he understood the words were aimed at black officers like him. He tried not to take them personally, but the shouts were particularly painful, he said, because he has long been an outspoken critic of what he sees as racial discrimination within the department.
“I’m not blind to the issues, but I’m torn,” Lieutenant Raymond said. “As I’m standing there with my riot helmet and being called a ‘coon,’ people have no idea that I identify with them. I understand them. I’m here for them. I’ve been trying to be here as a change agent.”
Lieutenant Raymond, 34, is one of hundreds of black and Hispanic officers in New York City who have found themselves caught between competing loyalties. Many said they sympathized with protesters across the city and the country who have turned out en masse to demonstrate against police brutality in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of a white officer in Minneapolis.
The officers said they had experienced racism and share the protesters’ mission to combat it. Still, the unrest offers painful reminders that many black and Hispanic New Yorkers see them as enemies in uniform, worsening the internal tug-of-war between their identity and their badges.
Reporting was contributed by Ellen Barry, Catie Edmondson, Tiffany Hsu, Rick Rojas, Edgar Sandoval, Ashley Southall and Kate Taylor.