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61 Food Studies Books, Not Just for Black History Month

In 2017 with friend and colleague, KC Hysmith, I started this list, dedicated to academic books on African American food and culture. I’ve updated the list every February since, adding books chronologically by their year of publication. But these are books for reading far beyond Black History Month alone. 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 enslaved people, 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 and race with embodiment, health, medicine, agriculture, and power.

If you have suggestions for books to add, please send me a note or 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.

  1. Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor, Vibration Cooking: Or, The Travel Notes of a Geechee Girl (University of Georgia Press, [1970] 2011).
  2. Edna Lewis, The Taste of Country Cooking (Knopf, [1976] 2006)
  3. Amelia Wallace Vernon, African Americans at Mars Bluff, South Carolina (University of South Carolina Press, 1995).
  4. Maurice M. Manring, Slave in A Box: The Strange Career of Aunt Jemima (University of Virginia Press, 1998).
  5. 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).
  6. Judith A. Carney, Black Rice: The African Origins of Rice Cultivation in the Americas (Harvard University Press, 2002).
  7. Andrew Warnes, Hunger Overcome?: Food and Resistance in Twentieth-Century African American Literature (University of Georgia Press, 2004).
  8. Psyche A. Williams-Forson, Building Houses out of Chicken Legs: Black Women, Food, and Power (University of North Carolina Press, 2006).
  9. 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).
  10. Anne Bower (editor), African American Foodways: Explorations of History and Culture (University of Illinois Press, 2008).
  11. Edda L. Fields-Black, Deep Roots: Rice Farmers in West Africa and the African Diaspora (Indiana University Press, 2008)
  12. Andrew Warnes, Savage Barbecue: Race, Culture, and the Invention of America’s First Food (University of Georgia Press, 2008).
  13. A. Breeze Harper, Sistah Vegan: Black Female Vegans Speak on Food, Identity, Health, and Society (Lantern Books, 2009)
  14. William Frank Mitchell, African American Food Culture (Greenwood, 2009).
  15. James McCann, Stirring the Pot: A History of African Cuisine (Ohio University Press, 2009).
  16. Frederick Douglass Opie, Hog and Hominy: Soul Food from Africa to America (Columbia University Press, 2010).
  17. Rebecca Sharpless, Cooking in Other Women’s Kitchens: Domestic Workers in the South, 1865-1960 (The University of North Carolina Press, 2010).
  18. Judith Carney and Richard Nicholas Rosomoff, In the Shadow of Slavery: Africa’s Botanical Legacy in the Atlantic World (University of California Press, 2011).
  19. Jessica B. Harris, High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America (Bloomsbury USA, 2012).
  20. Kyla Wazana Tompkins, Racial Indigestion: Eating Bodies in the 19th Century (NYU Press, 2012).
  21. Alison Hope Alkon, Black, White, and Green: Farmers Markets, Race, and the Green Economy (University of Georgia Press, 2012).
  22. Adrian Miller, Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time (The University of North Carolina Press, 2013).
  23. 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).
  24. Toni Tipton-Martin, The Jemima Code: Two Centuries of African American Cookbooks (University of Texas Press, 2015).
  25. Jennifer Jensen Wallach (editor), Dethroning the Deceitful Pork Chop: Rethinking African American Foodways from Slavery to Obama (University of Arkansas Press, 2015).
  26. Mark S. Warner, Eating in the Side Room: Food, Archaeology, and African American Identity (University Press of Florida, 2015).
  27. Pete Daniel, Dispossession: Discrimination against African American Farmers in the Age of Civil Rights (The University of North Carolina Press, 2015).
  28. Anthony Ryan Hatch, Blood Sugar: Racial Pharmacology and Food Justice in Black America (University of Minnesota Press, 2016).
  29. Elizabeth Pérez, Religion in the Kitchen: Cooking, Talking, and the Making of Black Atlantic Traditions (NYU Press, 2016).
  30. 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 (University of North Carolina Press, 2017).
  31. Frederick Douglass Opie, Southern Food and Civil Rights: Feeding the Revolution (History Press Library Editions, January 2017)
  32. John Gennari, Flavor and Soul: Italian America at Its African American Edge“Chapter 3: Everybody Eats” (University of Chicago Press, March 2017).
  33. John T. Edge, The Potlikker Papers: A Food History of the Modern South (Penguin Press, May 2017).
  34. Michael W. Twitty, The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African-American Culinary History in the Old South (Amistad, August 2017).
  35. Kelley Fanto Deetz, Bound to the Fire: How Virginia’s Enslaved Cooks Helped Invent American Cuisine (University Press of Kentucky, October 2017).
  36. Sarah B. Franklin (editor), Edna Lewis: At the Table with an American Original (University of North Carolina Press, April 2018).
  37. Julian Rankin, Catfish Dream: Ed Scott’s Fight for His Family Farm and Racial Justice in the Mississippi Delta (University of Georgia Press, July 2018).
  38. Leah Penniman, Farming While Black: Soul Fire Farm’s Practical Guide to Liberation on the Land (Chelsea Green Publishing, October 2018).
  39. Monica M. White, Freedom Farmers: Agricultural Resistance and the Black Freedom Movement (University of North Carolina Press, January 2019).
  40. Jennifer Jensen Wallach, Every Nation Has Its Dish: Black Bodies and Black Food in Twentieth-Century America (The University of North Carolina Press, January 2019).
  41. Catherine Keyser, Artificial Color: Modern Food and Racial Fictions (Oxford University Press, January 2019).
  42. Rafia Zafar, Recipes for Respect: African American Meals and Meaning (University of Georgia Press, March 2019).
  43. Ashanté M. Reese, Black Food Geographies: Race, Self-Reliance, and Food Access in Washington D.C. (University of North Carolina Press, April 2019).
  44. Sabrina Strings, Fearing the Black Body: The Racial Origins of Fat Phobia (NYU Press, May 2019).
  45. Jennifer Jensen Wallach, Getting What We Need Ourselves: How Food Has Shaped African American Life (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, June 2019).
  46. Naa Oyo A. Kwate, Burgers in Blackface: Anti-Black Restaurants Then and Now (University of Minnesota Press, July 2019).
  47. Marcia Chatelain, Franchise: The Golden Arches in Black America (Liveright, January 2020).
  48. Jessica B. Harris, Vintage Postcards from the African World: In the Dignity of Their Work and the Joy of Their Play (University Press of Mississippi, May 2020).
  49. Lauren F. Klein, An Archive of Taste: Race and Eating in the Early United States (University of Minnesota Press, May 2020).
  50. Hanna Garth and Ashanté M. Reese (editors), Black Food Matters: Racial Justice in the Wake of Food Justice (University of Minnesota Press, October 2020).
  51. Adrian Miller, Black Smoke: African Americans and the United States of Barbecue (University of North Carolina Press, April 2021).
  52. Badia Ahad-Legardy, Afro-Nostalgia: Feeling Good in Contemporary Black Culture (University of Illinois Press, April 2021).
  53. Natalie Baszile, We Are Each Other’s Harvest: Celebrating African American Farmers, Land, and Legacy (Amistad, April 2021)
  54. Joseph Ewoodzie, Getting Something to Eat in Jackson: Race, Class, and Food in the American South (Princeton University Press, October 2021).
  55. Christopher Carter, The Spirit of Soul Food: Race, Faith, and Food Justice (University of Illinois Press, December 2021.)
  56. Rebecca Sharpless, Grain and Fire: A History of Baking in the American South (University of North Carolina Press, March 2022).
  57. Psyche A. Williams-Forson, Eating While Black: Food Shaming and Race in America (University of North Carolina Press, August 2022).
  58. Michael W. Twitty: Koshersoul: The Faith and Food Journey of an African American Jew (Amistad, August 2022).
  59. Diane M. Spivey, At the Table of Power: Food and Cuisine in the African American Struggle for Freedom, Justice, and Equality (University of Pittsburgh Press, September 2022).
  60. Naa Oyo A. Kwate, White Burgers, Black Cash: Fast Food from Black Exclusion to Exploitation (University of Minnesota Press, May 2023).
  61. Urszula Niewiadomska-Flis, Race and Repast: Foodscapes in Twentieth-Century Southern Literature (University of Arkansas Press, 2022).

Top image credit: Emily Contois, 2021 

1 Comment

  1. Pingback: Week 7 Prompt: Wrapping up Some Luck – 315: Literature and Sustainability

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