Tyrone Williams and Chauntyll Allen said they went to Joe’s Crab Shack in Roseville, Minn., on Wednesday night for a friend’s early birthday dinner when they looked down at their table and saw it: a photograph, embedded inside of the table, depicting the public hanging of a black man.
“It had a cartoon character saying, ‘All I said was “I didn’t like the gumbo,’ ” in a joking manner,” Williams said at a news conference Thursday.
“I’m appalled,” Allen said at the news conference, organized by the Minneapolis NAACP. “I don’t understand why they think this is some kind of joke, the trauma we endured on our black body.”
Williams snapped a photo of the image titled “Hanging at Groesbeck, Texas, on April 12, 1895″ and contacted the Minneapolis chapter of the civil rights organization.
Ignite Restaurant Group, Joe’s Crab Shack’s parent company, has since apologized for what it described as an offensive photo.
“We take this matter very seriously, and the photo in question was immediately removed,” Ignite Chief Operating Officer David Catalano said in a statement, KARE reported. “We sincerely apologize to our guests who were disturbed by the image, and we look forward to continuing to serve the Roseville community.”
While pleased that the photo was removed from the Roseville restaurant, Minneapolis NAACP president Nekima Levy-Pounds said in an interview Friday that “there are broader concerns about whether that type of racist decor exists in other Joe’s Crab Shack locations.”
“We have not seen a commitment from Ignite Restaurant Group that they will examine the decor in all of its restaurants and remove racist material,” Levy-Pounds told The Washington Post.
Williams and Allen alerted the Roseville manager of the photo soon after they saw it.
“He was apologetic and understanding,” Williams said. But the pair already felt “sick, confused,” and left the restaurant.
The scene depicted in the Joe’s Crab Shack table was the public hanging of Richard Burleson, a black man, who was convicted of murdering J.G. McKinnon, a white man.
During the 1800s and early 1900s, it was common practice to produce postcards of public lynchings and executions. They were considered souvenirs of public violence, and horrifying images carried joking captions such a “You missed a good time” or “This is the barbecue we had last night.” The Postmaster General in 1908 finally banned sending the postcards through the mail service.
“In 2016 we should not tolerate racist imagery in any of our establishment, let alone a family-friendly restaurant,” Levy-Pounds said. “It is our hope that incidents like this will not happen again, and that restaurants will be respectful of American American history and heritage, and not make a mockery of the oppression we have endured.”