By Frederick H. Lowe
Texas had the nation’s fourth highest number of lynchings of black men and black women from the late 1800s to 1950.
The table was located in Joe’s Crab Shack in Roseville, Minnesota, which is north of St. Paul and east of Minneapolis. After a black family saw the photo, complained and left without eating, restaurant officials apologized. Workers then removed the table, but it isn’t known if other tables in the restaurant chain have the same or similar images.
The lynching depicted Richard Burleson and another unidentified man being hanged in Groesbeck in Limestone County, Texas.
The 21-year-old Burleson was hanged following the murder of James Garrett McKinnon. The photo showed a crowd watching the lynching of a second man, but only one black man was hanged that day in Limestone County. The photo caption read: “The last hanging in Brown County,” but there weren’t hangings on that day in Brown County.
The photo caption attempted to make light of the hanging by saying, “All I said was that I didn’t like the gumbo.”
“They are trying to make a joke out of bodies, black bodies, being lynched, and I had a real problem with that,” said Chauntyll Allen, a community activist, who first raised the objection to the picture.
The photo and an apology by the owners of Joe’s Crab Shack angered Brenda Butler, a Texas native and a former editor at the Chicago Tribune.
“I have been to Joe’s Crab Shack twice in my life: once in the northern suburbs of Chicago and once in Kema, Texas, outside of Houston. Never again,” Butler wrote in an email. “I just left a complaint at Ignite Food Group based in Houston.” Ignite is Joe’s Crab Shack’s parent company.
David Catalano, Ignite’s COO, issued an apology. “We take this matter very seriously, and the photo in question was immediately removed,” he said.
A county plagued by racism and lynchings
It is not known what kind of trial Burleson had since any trial would have occurred after Reconstruction ended, when African Americans lost many of their rights, including a right to a fair trial. African Americans were excluded from juries. Only white men could serve as jurors.
It’s also not clear if a white lawyer would have represented him at trial or if a black lawyer could have represented Burleson. Limestone County was a stronghold of the Confederacy. Some 98 percent of the white men voted to secede from the Union in 1861, according to a “A Brief History of Limestone County.”
After the Civil War, Limestone Country was plagued by racial tensions and lynchings. Gov. Charles A. Culberson declared martial law in the area. Texas played a major role in a terror campaign against blacks and the chief instrument of terror was lynchings.
Texas lynched 376 black men and women between 1877 and 1950, according to research compiled by the Equal Justice Initiative, which is based in Montgomery, Ala. Georgia lynched 586 black men and black women; Mississippi lynched 576, and Louisiana lynched 540.
Ten men were hanged in Texas in 1895. Seven were black; three were white. Photographs of lynchings were often made into postcards. Lynchings were celebrated throughout the South with white families holding picnics as they witnessed men being hung, according to the Equal Justice Initiative’s study, “Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror.”