Whiskey, Slavery, and Efforts to Make Corporate Histories More Diverse

For many corporate museums and archives, it is tough to change the historic narrative of the company. Marketing is involved, as well as long-held traditions and myths. The Jack Daniel’s Distillery in Lynchburg, TN, has decided to add a new element to the story of the founding of their legendary whiskey company and their efforts made the New York Times this week:

This year is the 150th anniversary of Jack Daniel’s, and the distillery, home to one of the world’s best-selling whiskeys, is using the occasion to tell a different, more complicated tale. Daniel, the company now says, didn’t learn distilling from Dan Call, but from a man named Nearis Green — one of Call’s slaves…

In deciding to talk about Green, Jack Daniel’s may be hoping to get ahead of a collision between the growing popularity of American whiskey among younger drinkers and a heightened awareness of the hidden racial politics behind America’s culinary heritage.

Click here to read the article.

In a photo in Jack Daniel’s old office, Daniel, with mustache and white hat, is shown at his distillery in Tennessee in the late 1800s. The man to his right could be a son of Nearis Green, a slave who helped teach Daniel how to make whiskey.
In a photo in Jack Daniel’s old office, Daniel, with mustache and white hat, is shown at his distillery in Tennessee in the late 1800s. The man to his right could be a son of Nearis Green, a slave who helped teach Daniel how to make whiskey.

 

How can your corporate archives or museum tell a new story? What are your challenges or opportunities? We would love to hear from you. Email Amber Mitchell at mitchell@aaslh.org if you would like to write a blog about how your corporation changed your interpretation to include more diverse stories.