Black patrons at a Joe's Crab Shack in Roseville, Minnesota, on Wednesday understandably lost their appetites after they spotted a photo of a hanged black man with a cartoon bubble that reads, "All I said was 'I don't like the gumbo!'"
"We just felt sick and confused," Tyrone Williams told Fox9. "It was just sickening. It was disgusting."
Williams posted the image on Facebook of the 1895 photo, which was featured under the table top's lamination as part of the decor where he and Chauntyll Allen sat. The restaurant's parent company, Ignite Restaurant Group, later apologized for the "unacceptable" picture and immediately removed it.
David Catalano, the COO of Ignite Restaurant Group, said in a statement to The Huffington Post:
"We understand one of the photos used in our table décor at our Joe's Crab Shack location in Roseville, MN 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 and we look forward to continuing to serve the Roseville community."
Minneapolis NAACP president Nekima Levy-Pounds told MPR that the image looked like it was "deliberately placed." In a statement on Facebook, she called on the restaurant to donate to an organization that helps African-American youth in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.
According to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the customers researched the image and discovered it was from an 1895 hanging of a black man named Richard Burleson in Texas.
"Historical sources list the hanging as a legal execution for a murder," the Press wrote, but both Williams and the local NAACP maintain it was a lynching on their Facebook pages.
Williams said Friday on Facebook that his inbox has been flooded with racist messages since the story broke. "I told myself not to read them but I couldn't help it," he wrote. "This is sad."
His original Facebook post is below: