The day before her birthday, Chauntyll Allen went to Joe's Crab Shack in Roseville for dinner, and was confronted with a disturbing image.
Her friend, Tyrone Williams, accompanied her that Wednesday night. As soon as they sat down, a picture embedded in the table caught Allen's eye. It was an old photograph of a person on a platform, standing under a gallows, facing a large crowd in what appeared to be a town square. It was captioned "Hanging in Groesbeck, Texas on April 12, 1895."
A cartoon bubble above the individual about to be hanged read: "All I said was that I didn't like the gumbo."
Allen and Williams, who are both African-American, searched for the photo online and were outraged by what they discovered. They found the photo depicted the hanging of a black man.
"They are trying to make a joke out of our black bodies being lynched and I had a real problem with that," said Allen, a community activist who studied African-American history in college.
The friends talked to a manager about their concerns. Allen said the manager told them he will remove the table from the restaurant and apologized.
Nekima Levy-Pounds, president of the Minneapolis NAACP, said she believes that someone "deliberately placed the image inside of the table" and is another example of racism still alive in the U.S.
"It's a very disturbing and ugly part of American history and to make a mockery of it is simply a travesty of justice and absolutely unacceptable," Levy-Pounds said. "There's no way that anyone will expect to see such a grotesque scene being depicted while you are there trying to eat your dinner."
Ignite Restaurant Group, Joe's Crab Shack's parent company, said in a statement, "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."
Levy-Pounds, who demanded an apology from the restaurant's corporate headquarters Thursday, said she also wants the removal of racist material from the chain's restaurants across the country.
The Minneapolis NAACP president said Joe's Crab Shack should donate to a community-based organization that serves African-American youth in the Twin Cities.