MANSFIELD, Mass. (WJAR) — A piece of artwork hanging in the Old Country Store in Mansfield is causing a controversy when some residents asked the owners to take it down saying that they feel it is racist. The artwork is a poster of a 19th-century advertisement for Bull Durham smoking tobacco. It depicts three generations of black characters with large, protruding lips enjoying the tobacco while purportedly on a break from possum hunting.
Resident Donald Greene has lived in town for years and has seen the poster many times.
"I think it's offensive the way they have their lips enlarged and everything,” said Greene. “The men, it's showing the same stereotype. They can't even stand straight. They're kind of hunched over."
Greene has many pieces of African art, from figurines to paintings, in his home. For him, it’s important to pay homage to his heritage. Other residents in town have asked the store’s owners to take down the poster. The owner has refused. Greene says there is no need to keep the poster hanging.
"It's even more frustrating that in 2018, you go to talk to someone and they get upset instead of like, 'Well, maybe I should take another look at this,'" Greene said of the owner’s refusal to take down the poster.
Greene knows the poster depicts what advertising was like toward the end of the 19th century, he says it's important to honor the past, but it's also important to understand where we all came from.
"Only in an art museum,” Greene said when asked if there’s a place for artwork like this in today’s society. “An African art museum where it's someone showing how it used to be."
NBC 10 contacted the owners of the Old Country Store to ask why they have refused to remove the sign, and they have not responded.