On Matters of Etiquette...
African Americans in Food Service
"There is no class of people to whom cleanliness of person and attire is of more importance than to servants in genteel families."

Thus begins Robert Robert's chapter on "The Benefit of Early Rising to Servants" in his 1827 Guide for Butlers & Other Household Staff.  Roberts, an African American butler and active participant in Boston's abolitionist movement, strove for perfection in his work. He published this set of recommendations along with recipes for African American domestic workers in antebellum  America. A political treatise, Robert's advice guide offers a compelling view of African American politics of the period as well as insight into the dignity many African Americans held in their work as laborers.

Gore Place Mansion where Roberts was employed when he wrote House Servant's Directory
Photo courtesy Gore Mansion Website

Gore place was the home of Christopher Gore  the 7th Governor of Massachusetts, a US Senator, and prominent member of the Federalist Party. Gore Place served as a summer home where the Gores entertained numerous notable dignitaries. Roberts, employed there from 1825 to 1827, ensured the running of his household to the highest standards.

In places such as Washington, D.C., New York, and Boston, blacks owned  popular hotels and restaurants.  (Ironically, some of these establishments did not serve blacks.)  Another common enterprise among Black entrepreneurs were cookshops and grocery stores.  These establishments often doubled as saloons and gambling halls where both Blacks and whites would gather.  Such establishments were often targeted by hostile legislation aimed at curbing the activities that went on there.  Often black shopkeepers were jailed, fined, and closed down, but they would quietly relocate their shop and continue to serve their clients elsewhere.  

[Home] [Colonial Era] [After the Civil War] [Caterers & Hoteliers] [Cooks & Vendors] [Migration & Urbanization] [Urban Life] [Regional Influences] [Bibliography]