Uncovering the True Significance of Chickens in Black History

fried chicken
Graciella Ye’Tsunami
January 4, 2024

Throughout West Africa chickens were used for livestock, spiritual purposes, traditional cuisine, and even as for bartering. 

When our ancestors were trafficked across the Atlantic, they brought extensive knowledge of chickens with them.

Enslavers didn’t value chickens, so they didn’t prohibit those enslaved from having chickens like they did other livestock. Those enslaved were able to make a small profit from selling eggs.

Fried chicken soon became a favorite Sunday meal after church services. Chickens were also important for spiritual practices, like Hoodoo.

For a small bird, chickens provided our community with a sense of empowerment as they battled anti-Blackness throughout slavery into Jim Crow. 

Unfortunately anti-Blackness gained a foothold and we got shamed for our connection with chickens.

The “Black people love fried chicken” trope was strategic, anti-Black propaganda used to “other” us. Criticizing fried chicken as something you eat with your hands, anti-Blackness spread lies saying we were dirty and uncivilized

This stereotype spread after the infamous film “Birth of a Nation” was released, showing a character in Blackface messily eating chicken. Racist memorabilia only worked to further push this messaging.

Regardless of whether you like legs or flats, let’s leave shame off our plates next time we dig in. 

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