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The Civil Rights Movement Through the Lens of Food

The Civil Rights Movement Through the Lens of Food

William L. Patterson, executive director of the Civil Rights Congress, addressing the Bill of Rights Conference, Courtesy of the New York Public Library, Circa 1940s

William L. Patterson, executive director of the Civil Rights Congress, addressing the Bill of Rights Conference, Courtesy of the New York Public Library, Circa 1940s

During the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott, Georgia Gilmore, founder of the “The Club from Nowhere,” (TCN), fed members of the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) who spent extra time walking to work and thus had little time for cooking. For slightly above cost MIA members could eat in or take a plate home of “meatloaf with cream potatoes, cheese and macaroni, rutabagas, peas with okra, lettuce and tomato, apple pie and iced tea,” recalls Gilmore. She and the TCN literally feed the MIA’s 1955 revolution. In addition, Gilmore’s makeshift restaurant served as a critical space where MIA leaders like King, E. D. Nixon, Ralph Abernathy, and others held strategy meeting. You see Gilmore’s place represented a place free of wire taps that provided white authorities with intelligence on the MIA. White folks knew better than to mess with Gilmore’s place. A large woman, perhaps 300 or more pounds, who moved quick on her feet, Gilmore once got in a fight with a local male white merchant who refused to refund her money after selling one of her children a stale loaf of bed. Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) viewed her and her restaurant has essential to the movement. When folks like Bobby Kennedy came to town, MLK would bring them to Gilmore’s for a great meal in a safe space. 

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