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Restaurant apologizes for using photo of black man's hanging as decoration

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Sometimes historic photos are used in restaurants to supplement the decor.

But Joe's Crab Shack in Roseville is backpedaling after someone made a historically bad photo choice.

Tyrone Williams took his friend Chauntyll Allen to the restaurant for a birthday celebration Wednesday when they noticed that a photo under their glass tabletop had the caption "Hanging at Groesbeck, Texas on April 12 1895."

With a sinking realization that Joe's Crab Shack had made them witnesses to a black man's public execution, Williams and Allen used a smartphone to learn more about the Hanging at Groesbeck and post a photo of the photo to Facebook.

On Thursday the Minneapolis NAACP chapter held a news conference at the restaurant demanding an apology.

Williams says he learned from a little research that the photo was taken at the hanging of Richard Burleson, a black man who'd been accused of robbing and murdering a white man.

The gravity of what's depicted in the photo was not lost on whomever decided to use it as a decoration at the restaurant.

In an apparent attempt at humor a cartoon bubble had been added near the condemned man, reading "All I said was 'I don't like the gumbo.'"

Williams says in a statement released by the NAACP that he confronted the manager of the Crab Shack, who apologized about the photo.

Williams tells City Pages he also received a phone call from someone at the Joe's Crab Shack corporate office extending another apology and offering a $100 gift certificate. But Williams says he turned down the offer because he won't eat at the restaurant again.

FOX 9 received a statement from David Calatano, the chief operating officer of Ignite Restaurant Group, which said the offending photo had been removed from the Roseville Crab Shack and added "We sincerely apologize to our guests who were disturbed by the image and we look forward to continuing to serve the Roseville community."

Texas lynchings

The photo of the Groesbeck hanging of 1895 was referenced in a 2014 article in the journal Brown County Texas Genealogy.


The author writes that the picture had long been circulated locally with a label identifying it as "The Last Brown County Hanging." But the article clarifies that the event occurred in Groesbeck, the county seat in Limestone County east of Waco in south central Texas.

While this was technically a public hanging, lynchings were also not uncommon in Texas during the 1890s.

The 2010 book "First Available Cell: Desegregation of the Texas Prison System" lists 97 instances in which people were lynched or burned alive in Texas during the 1890s. The vast majority involved African-Americans, including a few women and children.

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