Geechie Boy Mill, a South Carolina-based maker of heirloom grains and other products, changes its name to Marsh Hen Mill after critics accused it of appropriating black culture.
“After many days of prayer and countless bowls of semolina, we are pleased to announce our new company name: Marsh Hen Mill,” said owner Greg Johnsman in a statement on Wednesday.
Marsh Hen Mill joins a growing list of companies that are expecting racist names and logos. Last week Mars Inc. announced plans to change the name of its rice brand, Uncle Ben, to Ben’s original. Quaker oats will start producing pancake mix and syrup without the Aunt Jemima logo by the end of this year.
The Gullah Geechee are descendants of African slaves who settled in the coastal areas of the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida. Their name comes from the Ogeechee River in Georgia. They developed a unique Creole language also known as Gullah Geechee.
“Geechie Boy” was the nickname of Raymond Tumbleston, a white farmer on Edisto Island, South Carolina who died in 2016. When they took over the farm in 2003, Johnsman and his wife Betsy kept the name Geechie Boy. Geechie Boy grits made from heirloom grains are now sold across the country.
In recent months, however, the couple have heard criticisms of the name that some customers have found inappropriate and an appropriation of the Geechee legacy.
“We appreciate the concern we have received lately and we have taken it to heart,” the Johnsmans said in July when they announced they were planning a name change.
Greg Johnsman said the new name has been registered and will officially go into effect when the company receives approval from the US Internal Revenue Service.
“We thought it would be a good time to let our customers know that we are working on a new brand and that we have chosen a name. It’s taking longer than expected due to COVID and we wanted everyone to know that the process was actually moving forward, ”Johnsman told The Associated Press.