Children’s Museum apologizes for selling Juneteenth watermelon salad

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The Children's Museum of Indianapolis (File photo)

The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis on Friday invited people to its upcoming “Juneteenth Jamboree,” promising live performances, a showcase of local artists and other activities. In the Facebook invitation, staff did not mention a dish the museum was selling to mark the June 19 holiday: a “Juneteenth Watermelon Salad.”

A couple of hours after the museum published the Facebook post, a Black woman replied in the comments section with a photo of the salad sitting in the museum’s food court. “So y’all decided ‘hey let’s celebrate by perpetuating offensive stereotypes.’ Y’all really thought this was a good idea?”

Not long after, the museum conceded it was a bad idea. A spokesperson told The Washington Post in an email that the museum had apologized, permanently removed the salad from the food court menu and recommitted to its decades-long effort toward diversity and inclusion. In an apology posted to its website Saturday, the museum said that, although serving the watermelon salad was based on staff members’ family traditions, it acknowledges “the negative impact that stereotypes have on Black communities.”

“We deeply regret the hurt and the pain that the food offering in our food court has caused, and we apologize. It is unacceptable that this took place in our museum,” the spokesperson told The Post.

Since the Jim Crow era, watermelons have been weaponized as a racist trope to belittle Black people, according to the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Before being twisted into a stereotype, watermelons symbolized Black people’s self-sufficiency and freedom following Emancipation, emerging from the fact that many formerly enslaved people grew and sold them to make a living. Threatened by this, some White Southerners co-opted the symbol, mutating it into the racist trope that endures to this day, the museum said.

“To shame black watermelon merchants, popular ads and ephemera, including postcards, pictured African Americans stealing, fighting over, or sitting in streets eating watermelon,” according to a 2018 article from the museum.

Juneteenth, which became a federal holiday last year, is tied to the emancipation of enslaved people. A portmanteau of “June” and “nineteenth,” the holiday celebrates June 19, 1865, the day roughly 2,000 Union troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, announcing that more than 250,000 enslaved people in the state had been freed more than two years earlier when President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. It is a day that has come to symbolize the end of slavery in the United States.

“Juneteenth marks our country’s second independence day,” a 2019 article from the National Museum of African American History and Culture explained.

Several of the hundreds of people commenting on the post by the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis said they were offended by the museum marring the holiday, which is also known as Jubilee Day, with a still-potent racist trope.

The museum has responded several times since the woman first highlighted the watermelon salad. Two hours after she posted the photo, the museum replied in the Facebook comments section.

“There should have been a label explaining the history and meaning behind this menu item and it should not have been on the shelf before that label was ready,” it wrote. “We understand how this appears with no context and we apologize.”

The reply included such a label titled “Honoring Juneteenth,” which read, “Red food are the most prominent features of Juneteenth menus: red velvet cake, strawberry, watermelon, red soda.” Then there’s a quote attributed to Natelegé Whaley, a cultural journalist: “Red is a color that evokes cultural memory of bloodshed by our enslaved ancestors through the transatlantic enslaved person trade.” The museum’s reply has been edited to remove the image of the label. The quote is from Adrian Miller, a culinary historian who made the statement in an article written by Whaley.

The woman who made the initial complaint, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Washington Post, replied, saying she knows certain foods have been traditionally served to celebrate Juneteenth but asked why the museum hadn’t chosen one of the others.

“Nice backpedaling but It’s extremely tone deaf to not realize that many of your patrons possibly (and do) find this offensive due to stereotypes that still currently exist,” she wrote, adding: “A watermelon salad to represent the blood of my ancestors. Oh yay!”

She drove home the point in a separate post on her Facebook page.

“This country and these companies keep giving us everything except what we want,” she wrote. “Reparations is out of the question but here’s a Juneteenth watermelon salad.”

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24 thoughts on “Children’s Museum apologizes for selling Juneteenth watermelon salad

  1. LOL. Damned if you don’t, damned if you do. The good news is there is a strong undercurrent in society that is absolutely sick of this constant blame and victimhood game, and it will surface into the open eventually.

    1. Is watermelon salad a tradition? If so, please provide the historical context.

  2. In retrospect, seems like the Museum did not have bad intentions. Yet, is is appropriate they retracted it and apologized. Too bad I see the expected racism from people claiming there’s nothing wrong. And, “21 R”, the “strong undercurrent in society” you’re referring to are racists – there, I fixed it for you. And, TFG has normalized racism so that people like you no longer see the need to hide your racism, so it is already “surfaced”.

    1. This same sort of thing happened a few weeks ago with an IKEA that put together a Juneteenth menu, developed through the food suggestions of black employees (fried chicken, watermelon, collard greens). Still blasted as culturally insensitive. You just can’t win.

      If the worst evidence of racism we can identify is watermelon salad, we truly have a subset of the population desperate to find racism in everything…then to harness it for a power play.

      It must be a day that ends in Y to face racism allegations. Thankfully with each allegation, the sting gets muted. After all, when everything is racist, nothing can be racist.

      If “TFG” normalized racism–why do the allegations of racism seem to have increased fifteen-fold in all these other countries where TFG had no political sway? Furthermore, even if Randy’s cult uses this scapegoat (“his normalization of racism spread across the world!) , what can possibly explain the growing diversity between the TFG electorate of 2016 (which was no less racially diverse than any other GOP pres candidate) and the TFG electorate of 2020 (the most racially diverse GOP vote in 60 years)? They can’t answer these questions because there’s no answer that accords with their orthodoxy.

    2. So all blacks eat fried chicken, watermelon and collard greens? And these items were never eaten by whites, particularly whites in the South?

      A reasonable explanation of why this ‘watermelon’ issue has raised the ire of so many has been noted in comments to this article.

      Many felt the menu item was inappropriate and some voiced their opinion. One must note that inappropriate is not racism. Think of bringing a ham or alcohol to certain events — sentiment appreciated, item not so much.

      For those who are not black this may perhaps seem trivial, overblown, PC run amok. Perhaps akin those those who are not male and earn 80 cents to the dollar of male colleagues for the same work. Trivial, insignificant, and PC as adjectives for the aforementioned conundrum is indeed subjective, depending on the reader.

    3. “Perhaps akin those those who are not male and earn 80 cents to the dollar of male colleagues for the same work. ”

      Trivial, insignificant and PC are just three potential adjectives. “Verifiably false” is another–the key involving that 80/100 ratio to “same work”. Women are not paid 80 cents to the dollar for the same work. If they were, they’d have legitimate discrimination claims. They don’t.

      Perhaps, to satisfy the equality-of-outcomes death cult, we should address the inequity that consistently reveals that men comprise over 90% of workplace related deaths? Maybe we should kill a few women on the job just to level the playing field? The reality of course is that men disproportionately take dangerous jobs which inevitably pay more–and one of the main reasons I’m not seething with jealousy over men on the “80 cents to the dollar” gibberish.

      If you’re hellbent on finding unfairness, you always will find it. That we have people decrying watermelon salads just shows how desperate people must be in looking for it.

  3. The history of Juneteenth centers around a horrible period in history.

    Would atrocities committed against certain ethnic groups during World War 2 be marketed and attached to consumables?

    Think before you answer.

  4. There is nothing wrong with french fries, bratwurst, pizza, tacos, or even hot dogs, just like there is nothing wrong with watermelon. For crying out loud, if a red melon is going to cause a black woman to have a meltdown, then there should be no food with any history, i.e. French, German, Mexican, etc. etc. served at all. This is the year 2022… move on.

  5. Lefties get “triggered” at the mention of any word in the English language or any food that is in many groceries and households in the US!

  6. The watermelon has been used as a racist trope since the days of Jim Crow, and those who pretend it has not are being purposely disingenuous. I say that because I don’t think anyone old enough to read the IBJ can be that ignorant, but just in case, see either the Wikipedia article “Watermelon Stereotype”( or the December 2014 article in “The Atlantic,” “How Watermelons Became a Racist Trope” (

    What I find amazing (in addition to the protestations above) is that no one at the Children’s Museum quashed this embarrassing idea before it came to fruition.

  7. I demand that every white employee of the children’s museum be fired including the executive director anybody in management and be replaced with african-americans. That’s the only way I will be happy and satisfied. I need resignations immediately.

  8. Anybody notice that all the comments complaining about “political correctness” come from white people? Of course. They are in the best position to be the judge of what is and is not appropriate no matter the event, the audience, or the circumstances. They are also the ones most likely to promulgate the conspiracy theory that Democrats (urged on by minorities) are implementing an active, ongoing and covert effort to replace the white population in the United States. Shades of white supremacy?

    1. Wow! Brent is truly a god among men, somehow knowing the race of everyone who writes here. If you’re not lecturing other whites on this site, you’re lecturing minorities who don’t necessarily appeal to the grievance politics that you need to gain capital. Nothing more white supremacist than urban progressives seeking to help the minorities that they see is little more than crippled puppies…as long as the minorities toe the line of victimhood.

      Brent, the “Great Replacement” theory that you cite is mostly just your beloved bogeyman Tucker literally extracting clips of Democrat bigwigs literally stating that this is their precise intent: recognizing they can’t win on their ideas, they hope to saturate the country with minorities so they can create their one-party state paradise.

      Not that there’s any real threat of a “great replacement”. Only a leftist would be dense enough to think that people view the world a certain way because of their race, ethnicity, or national origin.

    2. What!?!
      White people can not comment on this topic??
      Your attitude is as racially divisive as anything I’ve ever read.

      WHO DO YOU think you are trying to peolle what they can and can not
      say or speak to. That’s elitist and arrogant!!!!

    1. Yes, truly, the Indianapolis Children’s Museum is run by a bunch of semi-literate bumpkins.

  9. In my opinion, most of the comments above are an embarrassment to the State of Indiana.

    I have to think that it is common knowledge that the watermelon has been used to disparage black since the days of Jim Crow. If you really need to see examples, just look at the Wikipedia article entitled “Watermelon Stereotype.” If you want to delve deeper, find the article in “The Atlantic” magazine from December 8, 2014 by William R. Black. Pretending that this is not the case, or that black people should not be offended, seems to me to be on par with claiming that the Confederate flag just means “pride in southern heritage.”

    Frankly, I’m amazed that no one at the Children’s Museum had the good sense to quash this idea before it came to fruition.