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Updated: Restaurant PR Firm Faces Backlash Over Racially Insensitive Name

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It shares a name with a song about lynching in the Jim Crow South.

A screengrab of Strange Fruit PR's now deleted Facebook page.
A screengrab of Strange Fruit PR's now deleted Facebook page.
Washington Post

A Texas-based hospitality public relations firm has come under fire because of its name. According to the Washington Post, Twitter users tore into the company Strange Fruit PR over the weekend because the firm shares a name with a song recorded by Billie Holiday in 1939 that refers to the Jim Crow South's epidemic of lynching.

Co-founder Mary Mickel explained to the Austin-American Statesmen that the company simply thought "the name would be perfect for a hospitality PR firm that specialized in food and drink." The company's founders claim they "Googled to ensure that it was not taken elsewhere and found the Billie Holiday song online." Apparently, they missed the slew of articles chronicling the term's racially charged history. The firm represents some of Austin's most notable restaurants including Odd Duck and Barley Swine.

After facing much backlash on social media the company "seemingly vanished from the internet." They deleted their Facebook and Twitter accounts, the website link is dead, and even its Google cache has been cleared as of last night.

The firm also apologized: "We extend our deepest and sincerest apologies for the offense caused by the name of our public relations firm." Mickel added that they had received questions about their controversial name since 2012, but had somehow not realized until now "the horrible connotations" the name evokes. The PR firm is currently hunting for a new, non-controversial, name.

UPDATE, 11:13 a.m. Reached for comment, co-owner Mary Mickel responded: "We were wrong. We extend our deepest & sincerest apologies for the offense caused by the name of our public relations firm. This is very troublesome to us & was most definitely never our intention to draw any parallels to Abel Meeropol's powerful poem & the song that holds the name. We thought the term "strange fruit" really could stand for someone who stood out in a crowd, a talent that was different and remarkable-in a good way. Again, we were wrong. This implication behind the name does not convey the mission we have for our company, or our personal beliefs, & we are taking the immediate and necessary steps to change our name."

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