Saturday, April 21, 2007
Aunt Jemima & Uncle Ben
Being a student of history, I've always had the idea in the back of my head that Uncle Ben and Aunt Jemima, famous brand symbols for their respective American food products, probably traced their origins to days when it was more acceptable to exploit negative racial stereotypes for commercial gain. As a history student at NAU, running across Aunt Jemima in particular at the grocery store always left me wondering. Could one launch a product today using such a character as a marketing tool? Unlikely, I thought.
This particular history of "racist spokescharacters" that I found on Slate traces the origins of these characters and others long extinct. It covers negative stereotypes advertisers originally exploited, the ensuing controversies, and the image makeovers and skillfully handled marketing campaigns that ultimately allowed Uncle Ben and Aunt Jemima to survive more than 100 years.
Learn more about these common food staple trademarks as relics of a nation's very fascinating history.
The whole article by David Segal can be found here:
Uncle Ben, CEO? The strange history of racist spokescharacters.
By David Segal