Cracker Barrel Trends on Twitter, Controversy Sparks Over Restaurant Name

by Katie Maloney

Cracker Barrel is trending on Twitter because people are claiming that the origins of the name are racist. Are the claims true?

A photo is currently trending on Twitter. The photo is of a Cracker Barrel restaurant logo. The caption of the photo reads, “Cracker was a slang term for whip. That’s 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!”

Along with the photo, the tweet reads, “Did y’all know this?”

As of now, the post has been retweeted over 10,000 times and that number rises every few minutes. Additionally, more than 5,000 people have commented. However, not everyone agrees with the claims in this post.

One person replied, “The etymology of the word cracker is debatable. One of the suspected reasons people are called crackers is because of classism. Poor people had to crack their own corn. The term appears to predate the United States. Also, could be related to whips or even whiskey.”

Someone else replied, “I’ll give you points for creativity, but it’s not true.” They then linked to an article from Southern Living.

What Are The Origins Behind The Cracker Barrel Name?

Southern Living dug into the origins of the Cracker Barrel name for a 2018 article. The article first referenced the Merriam-Webster definition of “cracker-barrel.” The dictionary defines the word as an adjective “suggestive of the friendly homespun character of a country store.” Synonyms include “down-home, folksy, homespun.” In other words, someone could say, “I’m looking forward to a cracker-barrel visit to my grandma’s farm in my hometown.”

The dictionary also states that the term “cracker-barrel” was first used in 1916. According to the article, the term was created by the country stores of the era. It also emerged from actual barrels of crackers. Most country stores at the time had barrels full of soda crackers that were for sale. Each barrel stored crackers, similar to those saltine crackers that only really taste good in soup when you’re sick. Store visitors sat around the cracker barrels and talked about the news of the day, their families, and whatever else they felt like chatting about. This ties everything back to that “friendly homespun character” and the aforementioned dictionary definition.

Cracker Barrel’s logo is meant to represent a man sitting in a rocking chair next to a barrel (that’s probably filled with crackers). The article does not explain the alleged whip. However, Twitter users suggested that whips were used by cowboys to herd cattle. In keeping with the western theme, the logo may have used the whip to represent cattle herding. According to an article from the Osceola County, Florida government website, the term “cracker cowboys” was first used in an 1895 article to describe the cracking sound of a herding whip.

“You’d be hard-pressed to hear one now, but starting in the 1860s the cracking sound of cowboys’ whips filled the air as they drove herds of lean cattle through the scrub brush of Osceola’s open ranges…Pejoratively dubbed ‘Cracker Cowboys’ by Frederic Remington in an 1895 article in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, the Florida cowboy used dogs and whips to herd their cattle with such great skill that some could kill a rattlesnake and turn stampeding cattle.”