Black History Month

Tasting the Past: Black History Month Edition

Publish Date February 5, 2024 2 Minute Read

We often take the time to appreciate all the pivotal moments and influential figures who have helped shape the past during Black History Month. But we don’t always celebrate or appreciate how the Black community has influenced our art, music, and of course, food. So, let’s start with the basics of why Black History Month is so important and find out some of the profound influences on today’s American cuisine.

What is Black History Month?

Black History Month is an annual observance that started in 1976 dedicated to recognizing and honoring the achievements, contributions, and history of Black Americans. It’s a time to celebrate the significant roles that Black individuals have played throughout history and the influence they’ve had on shaping our cuisine, art, politics, sports, and civil rights. It honors all Black people from the enslaved people who were brought over from Africa to the African Americans living among us today.

Why is Black History Month in February?

Back in the early 1900s, historian Carter Woodson was discouraged by the lack of information that was available on the accomplishments of African Americans. He co-founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History to rectify this, and later declared the second week of February as “Negro History Week.” This week was chosen because it includes the birthdays of both Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln who were both instrumental in the fight against slavery. This week-long event is what eventually became a month-long celebration of Black History.

Are Black History Month and Juneteenth the Same Thing?

Black History Month and Juneteenth are purposely two separate holidays. Black History Month is to remember to honor the often-forgotten contributions and achievements of our Black Americans. Juneteenth, or June 19th is a commemoration of the emancipation of enslaved people in the US.

Black History and American Cuisine

From fried chicken and collard greens to gumbo, we cannot do Black History Month justice without delving into the impact Black culture has had on our current-day cuisine. Despite harsh conditions, enslaved African people were able to preserve and adapt their culinary traditions to survive under the harsh conditions they were forced to endure. With new ingredients and techniques added to their traditional cuisines, the foundation of many of our foods was born.

  • Soul Food: The cornerstone of African American Cuisine is the child of adversity. Collard greens, cornbread, fried chicken, and sweet potato pie are just a few of the many recipes that tell the stories of survival and community.
  • Gullah/Geechee Cuisine: From the influence of West Africa, dishes like gumbo and benne wafers still thrive along the Southeastern coast.
  • Afro-Caribbean Influence: Beyond our borders, Africa meeting the Caribbean has produced tasty recipes like jerk chicken, rice and peas, and callaloo.
  • Desserts: Banana pudding and Haitian patties echo the past through comforting and complex flavors.

There is no denying the incredible mark the Black community has added to our history and culture. So, while you’re savoring the diverse and flavorful recipes inspired and created by our colorful past, remember to honor and celebrate those who have come before and who are yet to come. And give thanks for all they have and will add to our world.