“For Black History Month, I’m sharing works of African American foodways scholars and cookbook authors that shape my own research.” So tweeted my friend Katherine Hysmith, who is a PhD student in American Studies at UNC-Chapel Hill, last week. I couldn’t help but jump on her great idea too with this post, dedicated to books on African American food and culture, which ought to be read and discussed all year round. I’ve ordered the list chronologically by year of publication. As the list indicates, this is a rich, important, and growing area of food studies research that is gaining momentum.
These books matter as they address many themes, including: the significant contributions of African and African American foodways to “American” food culture; the knowledge, expertise, and agency of slaves, expressed through agriculture, cooking and domestic labor, botanical medical traditions, and food commerce; the meaning and historical trajectory of soul food; and the intersections of food with the black body, health, medicine, and power.
If you have suggestions for books to add, please let me know in the comments! And find even more academic works, as well as historic and contemporary cookbooks from black chefs and restauranteurs, on Black Culinary History’s fantastic website.
- Maurice M. Manring, Slave in A Box: The Strange Career of Aunt Jemima (University of Virginia Press, 1998).
- Doris Witt, Black Hunger: Food and the Politics of U.S. Identity (Oxford University Press, 1999)—reissued as Black Hunger: Soul Food and America (University of Minnesota Press, 2004).
- Judith A. Carney, Black Rice: The African Origins of Rice Cultivation in the Americas (Harvard University Press, 2002).
- Andrew Warnes, Hunger Overcome?: Food and Resistance in Twentieth-Century African American Literature (University of Georgia Press, 2004).
- Psyche A. Williams-Forson, Building Houses out of Chicken Legs: Black Women, Food, and Power (The University of North Carolina Press, 2006).
- Debra A. Reid, Reaping a Greater Harvest: African Americans, the Extension Service, and Rural Reform in Jim Crow Texas (Texas A&M University Press, 2007).
- Anne Bower (editor), African American Foodways: Explorations of History and Culture (University of Illinois Press, 2008).
- Frederick Douglass Opie, Hog and Hominy: Soul Food from Africa to America (Columbia University Press, 2010).
- Rebecca Sharpless, Cooking in Other Women’s Kitchens: Domestic Workers in the South, 1865-1960 (The University of North Carolina Press, 2010).
- Judith Carney and Richard Nicholas Rosomoff, In the Shadow of Slavery: Africa’s Botanical Legacy in the Atlantic World (University of California Press, 2011).
- Jessica B. Harris, High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America (Bloomsbury USA, 2012).
- Adrian Miller, Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time (The University of North Carolina Press, 2013).
- Angela Jill Cooley, To Live and Dine in Dixie: The Evolution of Urban Food Culture in the Jim Crow South (University of Georgia Press, 2015).
- Toni Tipton-Martin, The Jemima Code: Two Centuries of African American Cookbooks (University of Texas Press, 2015).
- Jennifer Jensen Wallach (editor), Dethroning the Deceitful Pork Chop: Rethinking African American Foodways from Slavery to Obama (University of Arkansas Press, 2015).
- Mark S. Warner, Eating in the Side Room: Food, Archaeology, and African American Identity (University Press of Florida, 2015).
- Anthony Ryan Hatch, Blood Sugar: Racial Pharmacology and Food Justice in Black America (University of Minnesota Press, 2016).
- Adrian Miller, The President’s Kitchen Cabinet: The Story of the African Americans Who Have Fed Our First Families, from the Washingtons to the Obamas (The University of North Carolina Press, 2017).
- Michael W. Twitty, The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African-American Culinary History in the Old South (Amistad, August 1, 2017).
- John Gennadi, Flavor and Soul: Italian America at Its African American Edge, “Chapter 3: Everybody Eats” (University of Chicago Press, March 2017).
Top image credit: Emily Contois, 2017