A fish restaurant for black folk, Memphis, Tennessee, 1937
Yesterday I hooked up with my cousin Charlie White who is a Baltimore native. I road shot gun with him as we went exploring the city’s historic soul food restaurants. When he informed friends and other family members about what I was hunting down, we were both amazed at how black owned operated restaurants in the city have gone out of business places like the Chuck Wagon and East Baltimore. Before the emergence of the civil rights and black power movements in this city and others, African-American cooks working at segregated restaurants, barbecue stands, bars and grills, and nightclubs helped establish consumer demand for what became known as soul food in the late 1960s. Jim Crow policies ensured that black restaurants remained separate black spaces. For working-class blacks, these eateries enabled them to collectively relax and recover from the stress of racial politics. In large part, many of the eateries flourished due to the Jim Crow laws and customs that restricted the public dining options of African Americans beginning in the late nineteenth century and ending with the 1954 landmark Supreme Court case, Brown v. Board of Education, in which the Supreme Court ended the principle of “separate but equal” and affectively began the slow death of Jim Crow segregation laws and many black owned and operated restaurants.