3 Black Food History Stories You Should Know

On Monday, February 30th, 2016,  Dine Diaspora hosted Dish & Sip with featured speaker,  Joanne Hyppolite, museum curator of the Cultural Expressions Exhibit at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.  The event also featured Southern Roots Granola, a company that draws on the Southern roots of its owner, Anita B, to create specialty granola snacks that inspire great flavor and taste in each bite.

From the Foodways Exhibit within the Cultural Expression Exhibition, Dr. Hyppolite shared insights on the rich food history that is showcased at the museum , which is currently the most visited museum in the world and will soon be seeing its one millionth visitor. Throughout the evening, Dr. Hyppolite dropped gems about Black food history that made us proud and eager to learn more. 


1. George Washington’s cook was an African American Slave trained in French Cuisine.

Hercules was the Chief Cook in George Washington’s home, and his culinary prowess was revered by the former president.  As a “culinary artiste” in French cuisine, Hercules’ food was also a hit among the President's guests who dined at his home. Despite being hailed for his talent as a cook, Hercules eventually ran away and was never heard from again.


2. During segregation, The Negro Motorist Green Book informed Black travelers on where they could eat.

Before integration of black and white spaces in the United States, traveling for Black people in the South required knowing where it was safe to eat.  Not knowing this information could be dangerous, therefore Black travelers purchased this resource so they would know where it was safe to stop for food. This artifact is currently displayed at the museum and shows how business endeavors in food were born in response to the social-political system of segregation.


3. Cook books are an important part of African Diaspora culinary history.

Ever heard of Good Things to Eat as Suggested by Rufus or the The Federation Cook Book: A Collection of Tested Recipes Contributed by the Colored Women of the State of California? Well, cook books by African American cooks & chefs have a rich history and highlight the efforts to record recipes and culinary narratives overtime.  

Share you black food history stories in the comment section below!