Keens Steakhouse Removes Racist Imagery From Its Walls
Walking into Keens has always felt like stepping into another time, but the iconic Midtown steakhouse is finally allowing itself one major 21st-century update: removing any historical posters that depict blackface or other racist stereotypes from its walls.
The restaurant, which as been open since 1885, is adorned with more than 500 historical pieces, including photographs, posters, playbills and newspaper clippings. Manager Bonnie Jenkins recently told Eater she has removed about 10 pieces that no longer hold up, including posters advertising minstrel shows and illustrations of actors in blackface.
“We want people to be able to come here and enjoy themselves and not feel offended or upset,” she told the publication. “That’s the goal. It’s just time.” The pieces have stayed up this long because owner George Schwarz, who fled Nazi Germany in his youth and died in 2016, felt strongly that history must be preserved to educate — warts and all.
“It was important to him historically that atrocities that we have done to each other aren’t done away, the good and the ugly,” Jenkins said. “If we hide these things, we’ll never face them, then they’ll reoccur.”
Still, Jenkins believes there’s a happy medium and it was time for the offensive images to go. “I feel like it’s the right thing to do,” she said. “We all evolve. Restaurants have to be living, breathing, and continue to evolve, whether it’s the walls, the food, or the people. The goal is that the restaurant goes for another 100 years.”
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