African-American food practices in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were one aspect of the middle class program for racial "uplift." Because African-Americans had few viable ways to combat state sanctioned racism and unchecked racial violence, many chose to fight the battle for human dignity within the realm of culture. By disassociating themselves from food practices evocative of southern regionalism and, by extension, of the dark history of slavery, many self-consciously respectable eaters tried to convince white racists of their shared humanity.
At the Tuskegee Institute, Booker T. Washington promoted ideas about proper food behavior drawn from the philosophy of racial uplift as well as from the work of white domestic scientists. He advocated for the consumption of beef, a meat that he regarded as a symbol of Americanization, instead of pork, seeing food habits as a possible avenue for assimilation. But he did not strive to displace all southern, regional foods from the dinner table: he used ideas about proper food to advocate for racial pride and for economic nationalism, necessary ingredients if white racism could not be effectively neutralized.
Ticket price includes tasting of appropriate foods at the reception.
Jennifer Jensen Wallach is the recipient of the 2013 CHNY Scholar's Grant. She is an associate professor of history at the University of North Texas where she teaches African-American history and United States food history. She is the author of Closer to the Truth than Any Fact: Memoir, Memory, and Jim Crow (2008), Richard Wright: From Black Boy to World Citizen (2010), How America Eats: A Social History of U.S. Food and Culture (2013), and the coeditor of Arsnick: The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in Arkansas (2011). Wallach is coeditor of the forthcoming American Appetites: A Documentary Reader and of the Routledge History of American Foodways. She is also the series editor of the University of Arkansas Press Series on Food and Foodways.
NYU Food Studies
411 Lafayette Street, 5th fl.
New York, NY 10003
6:30 pm Check-in and reception | 7:00 pm Lecture
$25 CHNY Members | $22 CHNY Senior Members | $40 Non-Members and Guests | $10 Full-Time Students with ID