Academic journal article The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography

Building Houses out of Chicken Legs: Black Women, Food, and Power

Academic journal article The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography

Building Houses out of Chicken Legs: Black Women, Food, and Power

Article excerpt

Building Houses Out of Chicken Legs: Black Women, Food, and Power * Psyche A. Williams-Forson * Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006 * xiv, 318 pp. * $55.00 cloth; $19.95 paper

Psyche A. Williams-Forson has written a fascinating book. She hopes that "by inserting black women's voices into the current discourse on material culture studies, foodways, black women's studies, and women's work . . , this study will give the black professional a bit more pride so that she is not ashamed of eating chicken at the workplace ..." (p. 224). Throughout the book, which is well researched or as well researched as it can be given the time period and topics covered, Williams-Forson lays out an intriguing tale of the connection between African Americans and the cooking and consumption of chickens-from slavery days to the women who cooked and sold chicken to rail passengers in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to the role of chicken during the Great Migration north and finally to its current role in "soul food." Concomitant with that history is the history of the racial stereotyping that the association created.

To obtain this vast history, the author, an assistant professor of American Studies at the University of Maryland, uses such diverse sources as objects of material culture (particularly advertising items), stories from African American women, and analyses of the chicken/African American connection in past and contemporary media culture. …

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