Suggested Books

Psyche A. Williams-ForsonBuilding Houses out of Chicken Legs: Black Women, Food, and Power
Chicken has been a low-cost food source and source of income for Black families from times of slavery to the present. Chicken imagery has also long been associated with racist interpretations of Black culture. Psyche A. Williams-Forson looks at the ways in which Black women define themselves, achieve self-reliance, and even subvert expectations of blackness using this particular food.
Michael TwittyThe Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South
Michael Twitty won the 2018 James Beard Award for Book of the Year for this tome. Twitty is a lauded historian, and in addition to tracing the culinary history of Southern food, the book is also a memoir that digs into his own family history. At the core is a question, given Southern food's place in American culinary history, of who 'owns' this cuisine and who has been given credit for it.
Kyla Wazana TompkinsRacial Indigestion: Eating Bodies in the 19th Century
Author Kyla Wazana Tompkins studies the way that food is tied to race and class inequality, and also explores the very idea of appetite and its links to vice, virtue and an ever-expanding commodity culture.
Naa Oyo A. KwateBurgers in Blackface: Anti-Black Restaurants Then and Now
A historical account, reaching as far back as the 1800s, of restaurants that use racist themes, architecture, and logos as marketing schemes to invoke nostalgia for a historically racist nation.
Frederick Douglass OpieHog and Hominy: Soul Food from Africa to America
Hog and Hominy looks at soul food's "relationship to people of African descent and their food within an Atlantic world context." In particular, Opie studies the cuisine's relationship to the concept of soul itself in the Black community.
Toni Tipton-MartinThe Jemima Code: Two Centuries of African American Cookbooks
Toni Tipton-Martin has gathered one of the world’s largest private collections of cookbooks published by African American authors. In this book, she presents excerpts from150 of those books, charting a path of Black cooking from the time of an 1827 house servant’s manual to modern classics from Edna Lewis. Through it all, Tipton-Martin demonstrates the way that women of African descent have contributed to culinary culture, often creating masterpieces with meager means, without getting the credit they deserve.
Marcia ChatelainFranchise: The Golden Arches in Black America
Marcia Chatelain, a professor of history and African American studies at Georgetown University, explores Black America's relationship to fast food. While fast food is often characterized as representative of capitalism's destructive impact on our food systems and the obesity epidemic, Chatelain shows how fast food franchises have also been a force of Black economic opportunity and political power.
Jessica B. HarrisHigh on the Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America
Harris, a legendary cookbook author and food historian, tracks the origins and development of African-American cuisine: from its journey over the Atlantic on slave ships, all the way through emancipation and the Civil Rights movement.
Ashanté M. ReeseBlack Food Geographies
Ashanté M. Reese uses ethnographic fieldwork in the historically black neighborhood of Deanwood, Washington D.C., to look at the way that corporations have determined food access in cities—often leaving Black neighborhoods with an unequal food supply. Reese also highlights how members of the community autonomously work around these injustices and shortcomings, and how working around failed systems such as these shapes Black life.
Monica M. WhiteFreedom Farmers
Freedom Farmers subverts the typical narrative of agriculture as historically a place of oppression and exploitation of Black people, providing an account of the activist Fannie Lou Hamer, who launched a cooperative on land she purchased in the Mississippi Delta in 1967. It was a space where local farmers and domestic workers could be self reliant even while they stayed in the South, without following the second wave of northern migration for African Americans.
Leah PennimanFarming While Black: Soul Fire Farm's Practical Guide to Liberation on the Land
Farming While Black functions as a guide for African Americans to reclaim the power of their heritage in agriculture. Leah Penniman gives comprehensive advice about all aspects of small-scale farming, using history and real life examples to demonstrate how to achieve the overall goal of revolution through land ownership and cultivation.
Alison Hope Alkon and Julian AgyemanCultivating Food Justice: Race, Class, and Sustainability
This book addresses the injustice of the current sustainable food movement, which urges the eating of fresh food produced by local farms, which low-income neighborhoods and communities of color have historically been deprived of. Authors Alison Hope Alkon and Julian Agyeman envision a socially-just food system that addresses healthful, environmental food options available to low-income communities of color.
Robert Gottlieb and Anupama JoshiFood JusticeThis book addresses the current effort to transform food systems from seed to table, and advocates for equitable systems of food production, transportation, distribution, and consumption.
Adrian MillerSoul Food
In this insightful and eclectic history, Adrian Miller delves into the influences, ingredients, and innovations that make up the soul food tradition. Focusing each chapter on the culinary and social history of one dish--such as fried chicken, chitlins, yams, greens, and "red drinks"--Miller uncovers how it got on the soul food plate and what it means for African American culture and identity.
Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Land and Power: Sustainable Agriculture and African Americans
Land and Power: Sustainable Agriculture and African Americans features a selection of the presentations, posters, discussions, and performances that made up this extraordinary, joyous event. The authors capture the perspectives of various Black American cultural leaders about land and power as they relate to sustainable agriculture and Black American traditions. Land and Power places African American farmers, their cultural traditions, and the historical circumstances they have faced squarely in the forefront of the sustainable agriculture movement.
Nikky Finney Head Off & Split Poems
The poems in Nikky Finney's breathtaking new collection Head Off & Split sustain a sensitive and intense dialogue with emblematic figures and events in African American life: from civil rights matriarch Rosa Parks to former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, from a brazen girl strung out on lightning to a terrified woman abandoned on a rooftop during Hurricane Katrina.

List originally published by Epicurious.com


Helpful Resources

Shared Understanding:

dRWorksBook: Online Work book

Racial Equity Tools


Shared Definitions:

Aspen Institute Glossary 

Race Forward: What is Systemic Racism

The Conversation: Explaner: What is Systemic Racism and Institutional Racism?

The Othering and Belonging Institute: Structural Racialization and Implicit Bias


Shared History:

dR Works History of the Race Construct Timeline

Winona LaDuke on Redemption (YouTube video)

Honor Native Land: A Guide and Call to Acknowledgment

MLK on Economic and Land Justice (YouTube video)

W.E.B. Dubois: Behold the Land

Fannie Lou Hamer’s Freedom Farm Cooperative (Indiana Public Media)

FarmAid Farmer Profiles: Shirley Sherrod’s Fight for Civil Rights and Farmers


Intersection of Race and Food:

Farm Aid Farmer Profiles: Phillip and Dorathy Barker  (YouTube video)

Civil Eats: Why Food Belongs in our Discussions of Race

An Annotated Bibliography on Structural Racism Present in the US Food System (MSU)

Look to the Food System to Understand America’s White Supremacy Problem by Tunde Wey

Farm to Table May Feel Virtuous But It’s Food Labor That’s Ripe for Change by Andrea Ruesing

Race and Food are Intertwined; Here’s How We Can Do Better