What the Slaves Ate: Recollections of African American Foods and Foodways from the Slave Narratives


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Brown, William Wells. Narrative of William W. Brown, A Fugitive Slave. Covey, Herbert C. Greenwood, Doc south Staff. Douglass, Frederick. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. Green, John, director. YouTube , 2 May , www. One can see this mistreatment in the data retrieved, in which slaves were not fed or treated adequately. So, these enslaved groups had to use local wildlife and farming to stay alive. These practices do not reflect the ideals that were originally put forth by the U.

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Constitution, as slaves received similar treatment in countries less democratic than the United States. Also, various cuts of meat in different slave residences could indicate dietary differences within populations Crader Researchers such as Crader have alternatively argued that faunal remains suggest that enslaved people and their owners ate similar diets. In her study on faunal remains at Monticello, Crader discusses the large quantities of good cuts of meat found in the remains of certain slave residences.

Crader proposes that these remnants of remains show a social hierarchy within the enslaved community. I will have to employ several methods of analysis to discover whether democratization plays a role in slave diets. I included the standard deviation in parentheses, so that the spread of the data can be understood. I also used them to look at consumption of fish and other meats.

The first set of data that I will analyze is from researchers Dent and Cox, who examine diet reconstruction in Cape Town, South Africa. These data sets will allow for diet approximations of slaves within South Africa. These diet approximations will also give a baseline to compare to other plantations around the New World. I will then analyze the East Coast sites, like Monticello, to look for similarities and differences that exist between South Africa and the East Coast.

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I will contrast these with data collected from Vanderpool and Varney along with the analysis conducted by Dent. These three regions will provide a basis for comparison among these different regions so that I can put together a composite picture of slave diets. Overall, comparing and contrasting the data from these different researchers will help to narrow down the answer to whether democratization plays a role in slave diets. While there are isotopic studies for adolescents and children within several papers, I will focus on adults in this analysis.

This is because the isotopic levels in children change drastically after weaning, and this can skew the data drastically. She covers several regions, one of which is South Africa. For study A, the remains were determined to be from , while for study B it ranged between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries Cox et.

The data collected from South Africa show that there was a mix of C4 and C3 plants, but their diet primarily contained C4 plants like maize. Mbeki used 54 burials for her South African study, and almost all of them were determined to be adults age estimation was not possible from some remains. However, the range for this data set was much larger, with Carbon values ranging from The large range in this data suggests that there was a wide variety of diets in this area.

These different averages indicate that enslaved individuals in study A were fed a cheap C4-based diet, while enslaved individuals in study B consumed a much more diverse diet based on seafood. The next location is the U.

What the Slaves Ate: Recollections of African American Foods and Foodways from the Slave Narratives

This site resulted in heavy consumption of C4 plants as a primary source of nutrition for the slaves residing in South Carolina. However, Crader discusses the analysis of faunal assemblages at the Monticello site, which indicate differing levels of high-quality meat consumption between different slave quarters. Finally, several isotope analyses were done on populations in the Caribbean, with data collected from Barbados, Antigua, Montserrat, and Guadeloupe.

Authors Tamara Varney and Dent conducted extensive work on remains found within this region.

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This increased marine consumption can be attributed to the location of these sites, in which fish and other food are readily available. This data set, unlike the U. However, Montserrat proved to be the most unique, with the highest values of C3 plants from any site; furthermore, there was still consumption of C4 and marine life. However, it is still unclear as to why they are different and whether these differences are due to the effect of democratization in these areas.

Data retrieved from: Cox et.

There was a large presence of C4 plants in the diet in all of the groups from the collected data, from South Africa to South Carolina. This shows that the first-hand accounts reflect the results of the analysis; however, it also means that there was likely no change in diets between regions.

Catalog Record: African American frontiers : slave narratives | HathiTrust Digital Library

The prevalence of C4 plants in almost all of the sites suggests this Cox and Sealy ; Dent ; Mbeki ; Varney The only place that showed a balance of C3 plants, C4 plants, and marine life consumption was Montserrat. This outlier had the most diverse diet of any of the other locations analyzed, with results dramatically different from the other islands in the area.

The diet of this island, however, is explained by the large amount of volcanic activity that limits the farmland on the island. This means that there are larger amounts of meat consumption, which could explain this large disparity. For the rest of the data, this increase of C4 could have several possible explanations. First, the majority of slaveholders may have fed their slaves poorly, and the wide spread consumption of C4 plants could reflect this. C4 plants corn, sugar cane, etc. For example, maize was fairly easy to grow in many different climates, which would indicate decreased market prices due to its abundance.

A low market price would have made buying large amounts for slaves much more cost-efficient than supplying them with such produce as rice, which was not as easily cultivated in these areas. This is also supported by the largescale maize agriculture in the Americas during this period.


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  • Second, it is possible that the slaves in these locations could have received a fairly balanced diet within the broad scope of C4 plants. This would indicate that the slave populations received more than the bare essentials. This assertion, however, is fairly unlikely, considering the first-hand reports of slave conditions and the fact that their enslavement itself suggests that they were not fed adequately. This data analysis demonstrates the actual relationship of democracy and enslavement.

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    For example, of all the locations only the U. However, in almost every example used, the diet and treatment of these slaves remained similar. Their diet was composed of mostly C4 plants Dent ; Mbeki When meat was present in their diet, it was primarily lower-quality meat from the worst parts of the animals, probably leftovers from the slaveowners. This is an example of the contradictions that existed in democracy during this period. Even seemingly democratic nations functioned as non-democratic ones.

    That slaves held a place in the social hierarchy suggests the role that slavery played in the development of practicing democratic principles.

    Soul Food is Plantation Food

    I gleaned a great deal of data from each of these sources, all of which provided a glimpse into the diets of the slaves present at these various locations around the world. The data sets allow us to consider the social relationship between slaves and their owners and to view their treatment through diet. This perspective also allows us to consider the social interactions between these two groups, including the distribution of power.

    The only minor differences in diet were within the Caribbean Varney In addition, some islands like Barbados even showed little marine-life consumption, which illustrates the similarities between these sites. These results suggest that a majority of enslaved groups were fed poorly by their owners. Moreover, the hypothesis that owners fed slaves well to promote better work is not supported.

    The data expose a lack of democratic principles even in democratic states, such as the U. During this period, they functioned somewhat similarly to states like South Africa and Barbados, which did not become fully democratic until the late twentieth century. The act of democratization continued within the United States long after the Declaration of Independence was signed.

    Democratization is a long process of working toward equal rights and equal representation. Covey, H. What the slaves ate: Recollections of African American foods and foodways from the slave narratives. Cox, G. Investigating identity and life histories: Isotopic analysis and historical documentation of slave skeletons found on the Cape Town foreshore, South Africa. International Journal of Historical Archaeology, 1 3 , — Stable carbon and nitrogen isotopic analyses of the underclass at the colonial Cape of Good Hope in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

    World Archaeology, 33 1 , 73— Crader, D.

    What the Slaves Ate: Recollections of African American Foods and Foodways from the Slave Narratives What the Slaves Ate: Recollections of African American Foods and Foodways from the Slave Narratives
    What the Slaves Ate: Recollections of African American Foods and Foodways from the Slave Narratives What the Slaves Ate: Recollections of African American Foods and Foodways from the Slave Narratives
    What the Slaves Ate: Recollections of African American Foods and Foodways from the Slave Narratives What the Slaves Ate: Recollections of African American Foods and Foodways from the Slave Narratives
    What the Slaves Ate: Recollections of African American Foods and Foodways from the Slave Narratives What the Slaves Ate: Recollections of African American Foods and Foodways from the Slave Narratives
    What the Slaves Ate: Recollections of African American Foods and Foodways from the Slave Narratives What the Slaves Ate: Recollections of African American Foods and Foodways from the Slave Narratives
    What the Slaves Ate: Recollections of African American Foods and Foodways from the Slave Narratives What the Slaves Ate: Recollections of African American Foods and Foodways from the Slave Narratives
    What the Slaves Ate: Recollections of African American Foods and Foodways from the Slave Narratives What the Slaves Ate: Recollections of African American Foods and Foodways from the Slave Narratives
    What the Slaves Ate: Recollections of African American Foods and Foodways from the Slave Narratives What the Slaves Ate: Recollections of African American Foods and Foodways from the Slave Narratives

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