|Black patrons outside of a eatery in the south (courtesy of the Library of Congress)|
In James Weldon Johnson’s The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man, the protagonist travels from his hometown in Connecticut to Georgia to attend Atlanta University (AU). This is his first time in the south since he left Georgia which had been his place of birth shortly after the end of Reconstruction. Johnson grew up in Jacksonville, Florida around the same time and attended AU around the turn of the century. In the novel he gives the reader a sense of the eating out options in Jim Crow Atlanta. “I found myself in an eating-house much for its excellence. The place was smoky, the tables were covered with oil-cloth, the floor covered with sawdust, and from the kitchen came a rancid odor of fish fried over several times, which almost nauseated me. I asked my companion if this were the place where we were to eat. He informed me that it was the best place in town where a colored man could get a meal.” He also go on to explain that wealthy blacks did not eat out as to avoid the indignities one endured in segregated white on eateries and shabby black owned eateries like the one describe in the above passage.
Amit Perilall is a Babson College undergrad in Professor Opie’s course Food and the African American Canon (ashtag #FoodandtheAfricanAmericanCannon)
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