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Soul Food vs. Slave Food


  • Much of what is eaten today by Black people in the western hemisphere is a continuation of the food traditions of slavery. Very few of them ever question if what we are eating is healthy.

  • Research shows that people of African descent in North America have the highest per capita rate of diabetes, heart disease, colon cancer, and prostate cancer. Studies also show that black men who contract these diseases are much more likely to die from them than Hispanics and Caucasians.

  • The same goes for black women and breast cancer in most parts of the western world. They are much more likely to develop this disease and when they do, it is more aggressive, and they are more liable to die from it than white women. Black women are also more prone to suffer from fibroids than women from any other race.

  • Fibroids are believed to be a hormone-related disease. Foods like red meat are very high in saturated fat which is linked to higher estrogen levels. Consuming these foods can severely impact hormone levels and worsen existing fibroids.


  • Most of the enslaved ancestors were taken from West Africa, where the main diet was plant-based

  • Meat was not regularly consumed as part of a daily diet but mainly for special feasts and rituals. Dairy and eggs were not apart of this diet.

  • Studies today show that when people of African descent eat a similar plant-based diet, it results in greater health, longevity, and a considerably reduced risk of chronic disease.

  • Many are not aware that plant-based food is much more naturally suited to their West African ancestral DNA than the Western diet.

  • This has been proven in studies comparing Africans living in West Africa eating their traditional plant-based diet and Africans living in North America eating a Western diet. The diseases that plague Africans in North America are almost non-existent in West Africa.

  • Pre-colonial Africans did, in fact, rely predominantly on a plant-based diet. Their vegan diet changed when colonizers introduced commercial farming methods which produced a lot of animals, but also destroyed the indigenous crops

  • In pre-colonial times, Africans would gather leaves, roots, tubers, corns, rhizomes, bulbs, seeds, buds, shoots, stems, pods or edible flowers. (Occasionally, they would hunt down game.)


  • The veganism of today is a nod to the older traditions of Africa, rather than being a recent phenomenon

  • Plantation food is a health-destroying vestige of slavery and is not part of their actual West African cooking history.

  • For many people food is an identity, our story is told through our plates.

  • Southern food is a billion dollar industry, and is talked about as if no one had to suffer to create it (enslaved people)

  • Food justice is about access to healthy food, food that is nutritious


  • Enslaved people were forced to eat the animal parts their masters threw away. They cleaned and cooked pig intestines and called them "chitterlings." They took the butts of oxen and christened them "ox tails." Same thing for pigs' tails, pigs' feet, chicken necks, smoked neck bones, hog jowls and gizzards.

  • Chickens and vegetables represented empowerment as they were sold and used as a way to buy an enslaved person’s freedom.

  • Vegetables were a LUXURY to have (enslaved people in the house had more access to a variety of foods than those who worked the fields) Majority of enslaved people ate mush (which was basically corn meal and water), and pickled pork (which was often rotten). (That’s why many of the diseases plaguing our community today are "hereditary".)

  • Animals ate better than enslaved people. The food that was given DID NOT nourish them "I have often been so pinched with hunger, that I have fought with the dog – 'Old Nep' – for the smallest crumbs that fell from the kitchen table, and have been glad when I won a single crumb in the combat,” -Fredrick Douglass

  • Enslaved people were purposely given food that had little nutritional value. The only way to make this food palatable was by adding large amounts of fat, sugar and salt that were readily available.

  • The diets, high in fat and starch, were not nutritionally sound and could lead to ailments, including scurvy and rickets. Enslaved people in all regions and time periods often did not have enough to eat

  • This diet lacked protein, thiamine, niacin, calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D, and as a result, slave children often suffered from night blindness, abdominal swellings, swollen muscles, bowed legs, skin lesions, and convulsions.

  • The average life expectancy of an enslaved person at birth was just 21 or 22 years, compared to 40 to 43 years for antebellum whites. Compared to whites, relatively few enslaved people lived into old age.

  • Black men live 69.1 years, which is 6 years less than that of white men

  • Black women live an average of 76.1 years which is 4 years less than that of white women


  • Hush puppies came from enslaved people rolling up balls of cornmeal to keep dogs quiet when escaping towards freedom

  • In England pies were made with meat. African-Americans took the English meat pie and made it with fruit or vegetables, such as sweet potatoes.

  • We were frying okra while the Scottish were frying chicken- Okra originally came from Ethiopia

  • ”Macaroni and cheese was introduced to America from Europe from Thomas Jefferson’s enslaved person, James Hemings

  • Whistling walk: as a way to make sure that enslaved people weren’t eating their food, slave holders would make them whistle as they walked with their food. The idea being that if they were whistling, they couldn’t eat.

  • Stereotype of black people and chickens came from slavery times as well as during the times before the civil rights movement when blacks weren’t allowed to eat indoors, they had to pack their own lunches and fried chicken was a food that didn’t spoil easy

  • Enslaved people weren’t allowed to have hogs or cattle, but they were allowed to have chickens and guinea fowl which is a bird native to Africa

  • The term “Pit Master” refers to an elderly slave who was an expert cook and led the effort to prepare the BBQ for the slaveholders. Younger slaves worked under the “Pit Master” to learn how to prepare a whole hog for a BBQ.

  • It was a common practice by slaveholders to give slaves Sunday off of work to attend church. Following worship services, it became common for slave families to prepare chicken for Sunday dinner following church services.

  • What would happen if slaves ate the master's food? "You got the present of wearing an iron mask for several weeks, until you learned that that food did not belong to you."

  • Why continue to eat slave food when we have access to better?

  • Reclaim your heritage by transforming your kitchens to restore your health!


African Holistic Health by Llaila Afrika

Nutricide: The Nutritional Destruction of the Black Race by Llaila Afrika The Surprisingly Black History of Veganism by Attn.

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave

Hog and Hominy: Soul Food from Africa to America by Frederick Opie

The Cooking Genome by Michael Twitty

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