Still Cookin' By the Fireside
African Americans in Food Service
Colonial Era
After the Civil War
Caterers & Hoteliers
Cooks & Vendors
Migration & Urbanization
Urban Life
Regional Influences
Photos courtesy of Library of Congress, American Memory: Historical Collections for the National Digital Library

Historically, African Americans have used occupations in food service, such as prepared-food vendor, waiter and cook, to help in building an economic base for themselves, their families, and their communities. These activities have long provided a financial foundation and served as a source of economic empowerment--however limited--in times when the range of occupations was strictly limited for African American men and women.

African American-owned eating establishments also served as neighborhood anchors, forums for public debate, and gathering places for many developing black communities in urban areas.

This history has not been well-documented, and subsequently,  this aspect of African American political economy is not often fully recognized by many Americans.

Content Copyright © 1999 by
Portia James & Psyche A. Williams-Forson
Web Design Copyright © 2000 by
Psyche A. Williams-Forson
Sandor Vegh
Sponsored by The Smithsonian Institution Women's Committee