Cracker Barrel was criticized on Twitter with some users claiming a stylistic swirl between the “R” and the “K” in the company logo is a whip and questioning whether the name and its logo have racist origins.
Cracker Barrel quickly denied this. The media relations team said in a statement provided to Heavy that the logo does not contain a whip, and decried racism in every form. Some Twitter users were quick to lambaste the logo and the company after a picture of a sign for the store began circulating on social media, while others said they weren’t concerned.
Cracker Barrel’s statement said:
The logo of Cracker Barrel Old Country Store does not depict and has never depicted a whip. The part of the logo being referenced in social media posts is a flourish, which is used in the calligraphy of the logos of many brands.
Cracker Barrel rejects racism and discrimination in any form. When associations are made between our company and these ideas, it is deeply upsetting because it contrasts so sharply with our values and our team’s work to create a culture of hospitality that’s welcoming, respectful and inclusive to everyone who walks through our doors.
The Cracker Barrel media relations team referred readers to the Diversity and Inclusion page on its website.
Here’s what you need to know:
A Cracker Barrel Was a Barrel That Held Crackers & Referred to Country Life & Socializing
Some social media users claimed that the Cracker Barrel logo is racist and includes a whip in a swirl that surrounds the words in the logo, which the company’s media relations team vehemently denied.
“D*** I never noticed the whip,” wrote a person who shared a photo of the logo.
The photo was captioned, “Cracker was a slang term for whip. Thats why blacks called whites crackers, from the crack of the whip. A cracker barrel is a barrel that held the whips for sale at the country store. You see the whip going from the R to the K? Racism in your face!!”
Oxford Dictionary defines cracker barrel with other meanings, and none of those involve whips. The first meaning is an adjective, defined as “of or suggesting the simple rustic informality and directness thought to be characteristic of life in and around a country store,” with an example being “homespun, cracker barrel philosophy.”
The second definition is “late 19th century: with reference to the barrels of soda crackers once found in country stores, around which informal discussions would take place between customers.”
Cracker Barrel’s Logo Was Updated in the 1970s & Inspired By an Older Man Sitting on His Porch
Cracker Barrel’s logo was developed in the 1970s as the restaurant grew in popularity and as additional restaurants were being opened following its founding in 1969. The restaurant was founded in 1969 in Lebanon, Tennessee by Dan W. Evins. He thought their menus “looked kind of corny,” the restaurant’s PR team told Pop Icon in 2018. So he began working with a graphic designer in Nashville to come up with a new logo.
Evins wanted the logo to evoke nostalgia, and described to the graphic designer his memory of “an older gentleman who sat on the front porch during summer. He wore overalls and might have been a farmer.”
The graphic designer sketched an image on a napkin. Later on in the process, a man who looked similar to the description posed for the illustration of the logo. The man in the logo got the nickname “Old Timer.” The “Old Timer” was later referred to as “Uncle Hershel.”
“Uncle Herschel was Evins’ actual uncle and later became a Cracker Barrel ambassador,” Pop Icon reported. “It was not uncommon to see him head out into local communities and hand out gold cards. These cards gave residents free Cracker Barrel meals to drum up business.”
The Term ‘Cracker’ Pre-Dates American History & Was Used as an Insult in the Days of Shakespeare
While the word “cracker” did get one of its more recent meanings from the sound of a whip, the term has actually been around for hundreds of years, and its meaning has changed over time. NPR talked to Jelani Cobb, a historian at the University of Connecticut, about the term. Cobb studied the etymology of “anti-white slurs.”
Cobb told NPR:
‘Cracker,’ the old standby of Anglo insults was first noted in the mid 18th century, making it older than the United States itself. It was used to refer to poor whites, particularly those inhabiting the frontier regions of Maryland, Virginia and Georgia. It is suspected that it was a shortened version of ‘whip-cracker,’ since the manual labor they did involved driving livestock with a whip (not to mention the other brutal arenas where those skills were employed.) Over the course of time it came to represent a person of lower caste or criminal disposition, (in some instances, was used in reference to bandits and other lawless folk.)
But the history of the word goes back even farther, and was used as an insult as far back as the 1590s, referring to “an obnoxious bloviator.” In “King John,” one character calls another a “craker.”
“What craker is this same that deafs our ears with this abundance of superfluous breath?” a quote from Shakespeare’s play said.
“It’s a beautiful quote, but it was a character trait that was used to describe a group of Celtic immigrants — Scots-Irish people who came to the Americas who were running from political circumstances in the old world,” Dana Ste. Claire, a historian and anthropologist told NPR.
The term followed the Celtic immigrants to the South, where many settled, and was used as an insult for the group who was characterized as “unruly and ill-mannered.”
“In official documents, the governor of Florida said, ‘We don’t know what to do with these crackers — we tell them to settle this area and they don’t; we tell them not to settle this area and they do,” Ste. Claire told NPR. “They lived off the land. They were rogues.”
In the 1800s, writers in northern states began referring to homesteaders as “crackers,” and decided the meaning of the word stemmed from the sound of the whip used as they drove slaves. By the mid-20th Century, the word was being used as a term for “bigoted white folks.”
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