Fact-Check: Does Cracker Barrel's Name, Logo Have Racist Origins?

A social media post claimed the phrase "cracker barrel" was derived from a barrel that was used to hold whips for sale in country stores and that the restaurant features a whip in its logo.

On Monday, Feb. 8, a Twitter user shared an interesting "fact" about the restaurant chain Cracker Barrel that is now being widely circulated on social media.

The viral post claimed the company's name and logo referred to a slaveholder's whips and the barrels they were stored in. According to the post, the word "cracker" was a slang term for whip and that the phrase "cracker barrel" was derived from a barrel of whips that were sold at country stores.

"Cracker was a slang term for whip," reads the description of an image showing the Cracker Barrel logo in a Twitter post. "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!!"

Origins of the Name 'Cracker Barrel'

As pointed out by fact-checking website Snopes, there is a grain of truth to the claims made in the Twitter post. The origins of the term "cracker" can be traced back to the shortening of the racial slur, "whip-cracker" which was used in mid-18th century as an insult against poor whites who handled livestock with a whip.

The racial slur was also cited as the reason an Iowa-based man wanted the restaurant chain to change its name via a Change.org petition in 2015. However, the term "cracker barrel" does not refer to a barrel containing whips.

Cracker Barrel logo
The Cracker Barrel logo Wikimedia Commons

According to Southern Living, the term, first used in 1916, refers to actual barrels of soda crackers – a popular item sold at country stores of the era. Visitors would also sit around these barrels to catch up on the news of the day or make casual conversation.

A photo of an old newspaper ad supports this claim. A Twitter post shows a 1913 ad from Oklahoma's May Bugle including references to stores selling "fresh, crisp and flaky" soda crackers by the barrel:

Merriam-Webster defines "cracker-barrel" as an adjective "suggestive of the friendly homespun character of a country store while Dictionary.com defines the term as "of or suggesting the simple rustic informality and directness thought to be characteristic of life in and around the country store."

The first Cracker Barrel location opened in 1969 in Lebanon, Tennessee and derived its name from this cracker-barrel community experience back in the day. The restaurant's logo shows a man sitting in a chair, leaning on one such barrel.

Cracker Barrel Denies Claim

The company also denied the claim and said its logo features a common calligraphy flourish used in the logos of many brands.

"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," the company said a statement. "Cracker Barrel rejects racism and discrimination in any form."