In response to the Black Lives Matter movement, Uncle Ben’s rice is due to ‘evolve its brand’ but many have been left asking, was Uncle Ben a real person?

The year 2020 has been one of the strangest and most alarming in recent memory.

Not only has the COVID-19 pandemic killed almost 450,000 people worldwide but the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests that erupted after the death of George Floyd have unearthed decades, if not centuries of systemic racism in society.

In response, we’ve seen everything from the toppling of statues with links to slavery and the censoring of racially offensive films and TV.

A number of brands have also come forward in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and one of the most recent has been the easy-cook rice firm Uncle Ben’s whose logo mascot, an elderly African-American man, will be likely be replaced.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Uncle Ben’s to ‘evolve brand identity’

On June 17th, in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, the worldwide rice firm Uncle Ben’s announced via its social media channels that it would “evolve Uncle Ben’s visual brand identity.”

The announcement came just a few hours after the Aunt Jemima breakfast foods range revealed that it would also be going through a similar rebrand as concerns grew over the brand’s logo which is said to be a racial stereotype.

It is not yet clear how Uncle Ben’s rice will be rebranded or when, but it’s highly likely that the logo, featuring an elderly African-American man will be replaced.

Was Uncle Ben a real person?

  • No, Uncle Ben was not a real person and is, instead, a fictional character.

On the Uncle Ben’s website, there is a disclaimer about the character which reads:

“Uncle Ben is a fictional character. Any resemblance or similarity to a real person is entirely coincidental. All stories present on UncleBens.com are fictional as well.”

When the Uncle Ben’s firm was set up in the 1940s, the name, Uncle Ben’s was chosen by Gordon L. Harwell as a marketing device and to give the product a degree of familiarity and as a supposed reference to a Texas rice farmer renowned for the quality of his rice.

The African-American man who has appeared as the mascot of Uncle Ben’s since 1946, is an image of a Chicago Maître d’hôtel named Frank Brown.

Photo by EVA HAMBACH/AFP via Getty Images

Social media reacts

It’s safe to say that social media has had quite a mixed reaction to the news of Uncle Ben’s rebrand with some approving the move while others believe it to be a ridiculous step.

One Twitter user wrote: “Yes thank you. Please make some changes. It has truly been a long time coming.”

While a disagreeing voice said: “if you will change it, i will never buy it again!”

This Twitter user asked: “Is this not a step backwards? By removing the image you’re essentially saying that black people cant be represented on your products? Equality surely means black and white people get equal representation? I’m confused!”

And finally, one person offered up the perfect solution by rebranding Uncle Ben’s to include Uncle Ben from the Spider-Man films:

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