Dr. Yohuru Williams
Mark Brown/University of St. Thomas

In the News: Yohuru Williams on the Legacy of Black Culture and Food

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Dr. Yohuru Williams, professor of history and founding director of the Racial Justice Initiative at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota, was recently featured on The Grio discussing the influence that African Americans have had on foods that built America.

From the interview:

Williams: Pork, chitlins. Today, we know about the complicated legacy of those foods and how they’ve contributed to a host of health problems in our community, but they’re comfort foods, too, because they were about familial bonding.

African American, African culture, Black culture has had a huge impact on food and we don’t often think about that but the reality is that if you go back and look at old movies or old journals, the people that were doing the preparation of food were Black people. When we think about a couple of things like the cookout, for example, barbecues and these kinds of widespread engagements of the food, community is a big part of that. There are these rich traditions that we associate with these kinds of celebratory moments where people partake of a meal but it’s much more than the meal.

For me, “The Food That Built America” (a docuseries on the History Channel) is the perfect example of why diversity, equity and inclusion is so important (is because) it is the story of immigrants; it’s the story of people of color and how they’ve contributed so much to the food landscape in this country and how it would be very different if we were not a diverse a nation that did not celebrate diversity as a strength.