Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.
The first published books by African-Americans in the United States relating to food did not appear until 1827 (a hotel and servant/waiter guide) and 1866 (the first cookbook) respectively. Early contributions by African-Americans were significant in this area before, during, and after those years, but often remain undocumented in primary sources. From a historical perspective looking back, we can see that African food and culinary history influences early southern cooking, though, and how it expanded from there. The lists below contain primary and secondary sources that address a variety of aspects of African-American cookery history and the many roles of African-Americans in this history: as sources, authors, cooks, subjects, and scholars.
Special Collections Culinary Links
From Knox Gelatine: Desserts, Salads, Candies and Frozen Dishes, c.1936
Suggested Books & Publications (Primary Sources)
- 300 Ways to Cook and Serve Shellfish: Terrapin, Green Turtle, Snapper, Oysters, Oyster Crabs, Lobsters, Clams, Crabs and Shrimp TX753 .H17 Spec Large
- The American Waiter: Instructions in American and European Plan Service, Banquet and Private Party Work TX925 .G650 1914 Spec Small
- Aunt Caroline's Dixieland Recipes TX715 .M14 1922 Spec Small
- Cooking with Soul: Favorite Recipes of Negro Homemakers TX715 .R856 1968 Spec Large
- Cooking with the First Episcopal District African Methodist Episcopal Church TX715 .C6627 1991 Spec Large
- A Date with a Dish, a Cook Book of American Negro Recipes TX715 .D325 Spec Large
- A Domestic Cook book: Containing a Careful Selection of Useful Receipts for the Kitchen TX715 .R964 2007 Spec Large
- Down Home Healthy: Family Recipes of Black American Chefs TX715 .C485 1994 Spec Large
- The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish TX715 .D326 1973 Spec Large
- Favorite Delights of the June Birthday Club and Friends / The New Allen Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church TX715 .A454 1980z Spec Large
- A Good Heart and a Light Hand TX715 .G243 1968 Spec Small
- Good Tings to Eat, As Suggested by Rufus: A Collection of Practical Recipes for Preparing Meats, Game, Fowl, Fish, Puddings, Pastries, etc. TX715 .E86 1911 Spec Large
- Kitchen Memories: From the Hearth: Cook Today with Recipes from Yesterday TX715 .K5834 2008 Spec Large
- Mother Cotton's Goodies: Homestyle Recipes TX715 .C68 1993 Spec Small
- The Mother Waddles Soul Food Cookbook TX715.2.A5 W23 1970a Spec Large
- The Negro Chef Cookbook TX715 .R643 1972 Spec Large
- Plantation Recipes TX715 .B76 1959 Spec Large
- Soul-Food Cookbook TX715 .G8435 Spec Large
- Soul Food Cookbook TX715 .J52 1969 Spec Large
- Soul Food Cookery TX715.2.A5 K25 1968 Spec Large
- Soul Food: Recipes TX715 .S68 1971 Spec Large
- Soul Food: Recipes and Reflections from African-American Churches TX715 .W587 1998 Spec Large
- Southern Cookbook: A Manual of Cooking and List of Menus: Including Recipes Used by Noted Colored Cooks and Prominent Caterers TX715 .B56 1912 Spec Large
Suggested Manuscript Collections (Primary & Secondary Sources)
Culinary Pamphlet Collection, c.1870s-1990s (Ms2011-002)
The collection includes small publications and pamphlets created and distributed by culinary, appliance, and food-related companies from about the 1870s to the 1990s. Most pamphlets contain advertisements, recipes, product information, testimonials, or some combination of all four.
Gary Ann Giovanni Culinary Papers, 1997-2004 (Ms2006-011)
Papers of Gary Ann Giovanni, a chef, caterer and cooking teacher active in Blacksburg, Virginia. The collection contains records, menus, and recipes from her catering jobs and from the cooking classes she taught for the local YMCA Open University. Also includes material related to the various community organizations for which Gary worked or volunteered, and some material associated with her sister, poet Nikki Giovanni.
Macon County, Alabama, Household and Recipe Book, 1842-1918 (Ms2011-088)
A majority of the collection pertains to culinary interests. There are numerous recipes for cakes and icings, "messy" doughnuts, "pickels,"and breads. Some unique entries include a "Japanese Salad, "Rusk," and beer. Most of recipes contain a listing of ingredients and appropriate "method." However, some measurements maybe: unfamiliar (e.g. "saltspoon") or ambigous (e.g. wine glass) to the contemporary chef. Written also within the book is an elaborate "description of servants duties." Each slave receives his/her own section that outlines specific tasks and times for schedules on which they should be executed. Collectively, all were responsible for: meals, the master's children, other slaves, clean rooms, livestock, firewood, laundry, gardening, and the masters themselves.
Thomas Family Recipe Books, 1831, 1870s-1910s (Ms2013-030)
The collection contains two handwritten recipe books from the Thomas Family of Baltimore, Maryland. These cookbooks highlight Maryland specialities (oysters, clams, crabs, and terrapins), as well as preserves, cakes, puddings, and other dishes. The majority of the recipes range from the 1870s to the 1910s, but at least one dates back to 1831. Most recipes list an attribution and were probably handed down through several generations of women. Both volumes contain family recipes that would have been prepared, and possibly created, by slaves owned by the Thomas family prior to the Civil War.
Suggested Books & Publications (Secondary Sources)
- Aspects of Afro-American Cookery TX715 .P15 1987 Spec Large
- Bound to the Dire: How Virginia's Enslaved Cooks Helped Invent American Cuisine E445.V8 D44 2017 Spec Large
- The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South E185.89.F66 T95 2017 Spec Large
- Fighting Old Nep: Foodways of Enslaved Afro-Marylanders, 1634-1864 TX715 .T945 2006 Spec Large
- The Jemima Code: Two Centures of African American Cookbooks TX715.2.A47 T57 2015 Spec Large
- Plantation Row Slave Cabin Cooking: The Roots of Soul Food TX715 .M68378 1998 Spec Large