Cover

pdf iconDownload PDF
 

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

pdf iconDownload PDF
 

Contents

pdf iconDownload PDF

p. vii

Illustrations

pdf iconDownload PDF

p. ix

read more

PREFACE

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. xi-xxix

Twenty-two-year-old Cleora Thomas was not happy. Smart, pretty, energetic, with first-rate culinary training, she had more in mind for herself than being the second-floor custodian at Central High School in Muskogee, Oklahoma. When opportunity came to her, she jumped at it. Sixty-two years later, she wrote: “Early in the summer of 1923, my Aunt Minnie came home for a weekend visit with the news that...

read more

INTRODUCTION

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 1-10

For more than three hundred years, from the first importation of slaves into Jamestown until the 1960s, African American women served as cooks for privileged white families in the American South.1 Through their labor and their talents, they fed fifteen generations of white southerners. After emancipation, the work of these women also fed their own families, in the form of wages and food left...

read more

1 I Done Decided I’d Get Me a Cook Job: Becoming a Cook

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 11-32

Cooks were made, not born, contrary to white southern stereotype, and they arrived in their profession through a variety of means. A woman or a girl sometimes decided for herself to cook rather than do field work or other types of domestic labor; at other times, her family made the choice for her, or circumstances dictated her entry into the kitchen. The types of training that women had varied widely...

read more

2 From Collards to Puff Pastry: The Food

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 33-64

In 1868, white businessman Sylvanus Lines wrote to his wife, Jennie Akehurst Lines, about the abundance of food at his Macon, Georgia, boardinghouse: Now I suppose you would like to know what I have to eat—well for breakfast we have very good coffee, hot rolls, warm biscuit of course, beef steak, cold ham, hash, batter cakes, &cs at noon, not less than three kinds of meat & fowl, Irish & sweet...

read more

3 Long Hours and Little Pay: Compensation and Workers’ Resistance

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 65-88

In 1938, Roxanna Hupes of Galveston, Texas, wrote to “President Rosevelt,” feeling as many of her peers did that the president was likely to read her entreaties and make needed changes in American society. Detailing her workday, which began at 6:30 in the morning with a mile’s walk to her place of employment, Hupes efficiently...

read more

4 Creating a Homeplace: Shelter, Food, Clothing, and a Little Fun

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 89-108

With their paltry earnings, cooks provided for their families as best they could. All those hours in front of stoves bought food, clothing, shelter, and sometimes a little recreation for cooks and their loved ones. The small houses of segregated African American neighborhoods sheltered a population working diligently to make their ways in southern society. In meeting the essential needs of the next...

read more

5 Mama Leaps off the Pancake Box: Cooks and Their Families

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 109-128

In her 1993 poem “The Black Back-ups,” Kate Rushin depicts a child’s fantasy: that in response to its request, its mother will leave her work in the white people’s space, come home, and take care of its needs instead of her employer’s. In reality, for more than a century, mothers obligated to work for wages as cooks found themselves with limited choices in balancing work and family. Among American...

read more

6 Gendering Jim Crow: Relationships with Employers

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 129-172

Under any circumstances, relationships between domestic workers and their employers are extremely complex, including in the mix “power, dependence, deference, care, gift-giving, erotic involvement, love and hate.”1 Around the world, across time, conflict has been integral to the domestic employeremployee connection. The relationship, “inherently asymmetrical,” can never be made equal.2 Power and...

read more

7 If I Ever Catch You in a White Woman’s Kitchen, I’ll Kill You: Expanding Opportunities and the Decline of Domestic Work

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 173-182

In Langston Hughes’s 1949 poem “Graduation,” his prediction for postwar America, he contrasts the old and new types of employment for African American women. Mrs. Jackson—“Mama”—has toted home chicken and has put her daughter Mary Lulu through secretarial school with her wages as a cook. Being a typist may not be the best job in the world, but for the Jackson family, it is a big step out...

read more

Acknowledgments

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 183-184

I have been looking forward to acknowledging the help of the many people who have shared this path with me. Librarians and archivists make almost all historical research possible. I am indebted to the amazing people in the Rare Books and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress; the New York Public Library; the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture; the Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Harvard University; the...

Appendix: Cook’s Wages, 1901–1960

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 185-188

Notes

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 189-236

Bibliography

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 237-262

Index

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 263-273