Posted in December 2019, it shows Timberland’s bare-branch tree logo next to an illustration of three black men hanging by the neck from a different tree, with two figures in Ku Klux Klan outfits in the foreground.
The text reads: “This is something that was on the Oprah Winfrey Show a little while ago, and I don't think many people saw the Show because Black People in particular are still wearing Timberland!!”
It goes on: “The guy who owns Timberland is a white racist man who told Oprah that the tree on the Timberland shoes/Clothing is the tree that his past generation used to HANG black slaves in the old days!!”
Timberland not on Oprah
The Oprah Winfrey Show ran for 25 seasons, from 1986 to 2011. Its final episode aired more than eight years ago. Full episodes of the show are available on Oprah.com.
A search of the site returns just two results for “Timberland”. Neither has anything to do with lynching, Timberland’s owner, or the tree logo.
One, from January 2018, is by Winfrey’s friend and editor at large Gayle King, talking about how she’s “excited” by her new pink Timberland boots.
If Timberland’s owner had admitted on her show that his company’s logo celebrated the racist terror of lynching, it would have been widely publicised. But this episode can’t be found.
And if the admission had happened, it’s unlikely that Timberland would be promoted on Winfrey’s website.
Hoax traced to anonymous poem
The Facebook post also claims “the owner” of Timberland admitted to being a member of the Ku Klux Klan, an openly racist organisation.
Timberland is owned by the VF Corporation. And nearly 86% of VFC is owned by institutional shareholders – another 22% by individual stakeholders. So Timberland has no single, individual owner.
The link between the tree in the Timberland logo and the Ku Klux Klan could possibly be traced to a poem titled Clothes.
The poem has been falsely attributed to US poet Maya Angelou, who died in 2014.
It’s unclear who actually wrote the poem. But it’s addressed to African Americans: “And for footwear, you wear Timberlands / Even under the sun / That same tree that's the symbol for them / Could have been the same one your ancestors were hung from.”
In a later verse, it goes on: “Well, Timberland is owned by the president of the KKK / Surprised? Don't be.”
There’s no record of Timberland’s “owner” admitting on the Oprah Winfrey Show that the company’s logo celebrated a lynching tree. The company has no single owner. The only link between the logo and lynching is an anonymous poem.
The post is a hoax. – Eileen Jahn
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