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Paideia Text & Issues Lecture: Kelly Sharp, “African Roots in Southern Fields: What the Slaves Ate”

  • Date: Tuesday, February 18, 2020
  • Time: 7:00 pm
  • Location: Center for Faith and Life, Recital Hall

African Roots in Southern Fields: What the Slaves Ate” is the third in the 2019-2020 Paideia Texts and Issues Lecture Series Resistance and Resilience. Kelly Sharp, Luther College assistant professor of Africana Studies and history, will deliver the lecture on February 18 in the CFL Recital Hall, with a reception to follow in Qualley Lounge.

For the enslaved women in antebellum America who labored to feed their families, intimate entities such as the body, the home, and the food within both served as important instruments with which to practice daily resistance. Expected by their enslavers to prepare their own meals during “free time,” bondspeople utilized the daily practice of eating to actively express their identity within the African Diaspora. Reconstructing the ingredients, cooking techniques, and meal construction of nineteenth-century bondspeople on coastal South Carolina plantations reveals the active maintenance of West African culinary culture. Such dishes of this “sauce/stew over starch” construction are still evident in “traditional” regional cuisine. Whether the maintenance of this distinctly identifiable African Diasporic culinary culture was intentional or a byproduct of the conditions of bondage is debatable, but it does undeniably document the resourcefulness principle to Lowcountry black culture.

Kelly Sharp is an assistant professor of Africana Studies and history specializing in African American and cultural history with a particular emphasis on slavery and material culture in the nineteenth-century US South. Her book, Provisioning Charleston: Food, Race and Labor in the Antebellum South Carolina Lowcountry, is currently under contract with Cambridge University Press. This farm-to-fork history specifies the role of African Americans in shaping the Lowcountry region’s culinary culture and provides insight into the intimate structures of daily labor, economy, racial identity, and material life by examining not just what people ate, but why and how they made those choices.

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Kelly Sharp