Joe’s Crab Shack restaurant chain apologized to two customers of its Roseville location for an image embedded in a table that depicted a public hanging of a black man. A cartoon balloon with the picture said, “All I said was I didn’t like the gumbo.”

Patrons Chauntyll Allen and Tyrone Williams, who are black, noticed the image when they sat down to celebrate a friend’s birthday at the restaurant at 2704 Snelling Av. N. The caption on the photo read, “Hanging in Groesbeck, Texas on April 12, 1895.”

“We just felt sick and confused,” Williams said at a news conference Thursday with Pastor Danny Givens of the Above Every Name Ministries and Nekima Levy-Pounds, president of the Minneapolis chapter of the NAACP and a professor at the University of St. Thomas School of Law.

Allen said, “I don’t understand why they think this is some kind of joke, the trauma that we endured on our black bodies.”

The two said the store manager apologized and offered them free meals, but they weren’t interested and left. Ignite Restaurant Group, the Houston-based corporate parent of the Crab Shack chain, issued a written apology and the table has been removed.

The statement from David Catalano, Ignite’s chief operating officer, said the chain understood the table was offensive. “We take this matter very seriously, and the photo in question was immediately removed. We sincerely apologize to our guests who were disturbed by the image,” the three-sentence statement said. A Crab Shack spokesperson didn’t respond to additional questions.

Allen said the man in the picture, Richard Burleson, according to public records, was accused of robbing and murdering a white man. Allen said that charges were often created as an excuse to execute black men. Of the 10 men executed in Texas in 1895, seven were black.

Both Allen and Williams said they believe the restaurant chain wants to “uphold white supremacy” and likely has similar tables at other establishments throughout the country.

Givens noted how troubling it was to see the chain singularly denigrate blacks without any previous outcry. “We would never walk into any franchise establishment and see jokes distributed [about] the Holocaust,” he said.

Levy-Pounds urged the chain to go beyond a public apology. She wanted it to make a donation to an organization focused on African-American youths. She also urged other restaurants to check their decor to make sure it’s not racist.

Ignite operates Joe’s Crab Shack restaurants in 32 states. It wasn’t clear if tables at other locations featured similar images.


Twitter: @rochelleolson