History books consider cotton the king cash crop during slavery in the South, but this queen grain built entire cities and fed colonies, and nothing about it was easy.
Rice helped shape the South. It required an invaluable skill set that enslavers didn’t possess, so they strategically kidnapped our people from the ‘Rice Coast’ of Africa, including countries like Guinea and Ivory Coast.
The crop and its cultivators made Charleston and Savannah into bustling port cities. Carolina Gold, a grain that may have come from a Ghanaian variety, became a staple. In Southern kitchens, enslaved Africans introduced the preference for fluffy rice, separated grain by grain.
The highly-skilled laborers were known to use their spare time away to cultivate private rice patches and gardens, always using mortar and pestle to pound the rice in the same ways as their ancestors and remixing traditional West African recipes for the plantation.
It was subtle resistance and a refusal to assimilate into their conditions.
Despite the watered-down version of history, our people have always been highly skilled. Today, anti-Black institutions are still getting wealthy off of our skill sets. Let’s consider how we can divest our talents from them and instead use them to invest in our communities.