This Shocking Method Of Controlling Slaves Will Make You Sick

Chicken and waffles with peaches and cream/Arnold Inuyaki/WIkimedia/CC-2.0

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Whether you eat a plate of chicken and waffles, a bowl of turnip and mustard greens, or your grandma’s famous mac and cheese - soul food is truly a blessing unto the souls of Black folks.

It’s widely known that soul food evolved out of enslaved people’s diets. While our people were given the worst and made the best, soul food has an even more insidious history.

Soul food not only came about as a means of necessity and survival, but it was born out of owners’ contempt for feeding enslaved people at all. Yes, you read that right.

In three of his autobiographies, Frederick Douglass wrote about the conditions he endured as an enslaved person. He saw and experienced, first-hand, the wicked way that plantation owners and slave owners controlled enslaved people with food.

In My Bondage and My Freedom, he wrote that he was always hungry, fighting with dogs for the small morsels of food that would fall from the kitchen table.

It was common for enslaved people to be underfed. Douglass writes that his food included rough-boiled corn meal called “mush” and monthly food rations consisting of one bushel of “tainted” corn and the “poorest” quality of fish.

When food was prepared, it was a mad dash to eat the most. The enslaved people used whatever they could to scoop up as much food as they could, including “naked hands.” He and other enslaved people never left their meals satisfied.

The most loyal of the enslaved were allowed to eat from the owner’s table, taking in the best quality food. In this way, slave owners used this method of favoring enslaved people to divide and rule.

Because food from owners was scarce, enslaved people found other ways to get food. They would hunt, fish and grow their own vegetables. Some would even steal, feeling that stealing was just due for their maltreatment.

During the holiday season, owners intensified the mind games they played on the enslaved by giving them time off and encouraging them to drink alcohol.

Owners offered whiskey and considered enslaved people ungrateful if they didn’t drink. For six days, they would celebrate the holidays as owners took bets to see which slave could drink the most whiskey. After the holidays, they were sent back to the fields.

The enslaved people’s diet followed Black people for years, through Emancipation, through Jim Crow up until now. Soul food, cuisine from the South by Black folks, follows in the history of the way the enslaved ate. Soul food, though so good it will actually bless your soul, is traditionally high in fats and starch. This diet led to diseases like scurvy and rickets in enslaved people.

Today, the way Black folks consume and make food is similar to the way enslaved people ate and made food. “The Itis”, eating in excess to the point of sedation, excusing obesity as being “big-boned,” lack of physical activity and poor-quality food in low income neighborhoods are issues that still affect the Black community today.

Obesity in Black folks is 47.8% compared to 32.6% in white. Thirty-five percent of Black kids aged 2-19 are overweight.

Making due with the what we have still occurs in the Black community. In our neighborhoods, we’re still given food of low quality or cheap and easy to get. It’s contributing to the high rate of obesity in Black people and other food related health ailments.

Though it’s important to eat healthy, many of us don’t have that as an option. Many of us can only afford food that will somewhat satisfy our hunger pangs and take us to the next day, an eerie similarity to the way enslaved people were forced to eat.  

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