Croft News
September 14, 2017

Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar: Seeds of Memory: Food Legacies of the Transatlantic Slave Trade

Professor Judith Carney, University of California, Los Angeles
Thursday, September 14, 5:30 p.m., Barnard Observatory Tupelo Room

The popular image of Africa today is of a hungry continent, a continent chronically unable to feed itself, one that continually requires foods from other lands to keep its citizens from starvation. Yet this was not always so. Even during the period of transatlantic slavery, Africans in the New World actively instigated the cultivation of African food plants such as okra, yams, sorghum, millet, rice, and black-eyed peas. In their food fields, slaves Africanized the foodways of plantation societies that today are the celebrated cuisines of the African diaspora. This talk shifts our usual historical focus from the export crops slaves produced to the foods they planted for their own subsistence. The lecture emphasizes the role of African foods in provisioning the transatlantic slave trade, the slave ship as a medium for their circulation, and the slave food plots where these foods initially appeared. In doing so, it underscores the significance of the transatlantic slave trade for the circulation of African plants, animals, and natural knowledge in the Atlantic World.