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Amiri Baraka Through The Lens of Food Part 1

Amiri Baraka speaking at a rally

One of the leading figures in the black power and black arts movements of the late 1960s was Amiri Baraka, formerly LeRoi Jones. Born in 1934 in Newark New Jersey, Baraka wrote an essay on soul food as a rebuttal to critics who argued that African Americans had no language or characteristic cuisine. He insisted that hog maws, chitterling sweet potato pie, gravy and pork sausage, fried chicken, or chicken in the basket, barbecued ribs, hoppin’ John, hush puppies, fried fish, hoe cakes, biscuits, salt pork, dumplings, and gumbo all came directly out of the black belt region of the South and represented the best of African-American cookery. He and others like him called for a new, independent, proud black identity. Baraka advocated soul food as black folk’s cuisine and argued that Harlem cuisine his soul food and it comes straight from southern migrants. “Sweet potato pies, a good friend of mine asked recently, ‘Do they taste anything like pumpkin?’ Negative. They taste more like memor[ies],” of the south. In response to the black power and black arts movements, publication of the first soul food cookbooks began to appear in progressive book stores in the 1960s. I cannot recommend any better meal on a cold February day then a piping hot bowl or cup of gumbo; here are two recipes below.


Amiri Baraka Through the Lens of Food Part 2

Thinking About Chit’lin’s