The city of Charleston and Emanuel AME Church have announced twelve days of events commemorating the Emanuel Nine, victims of the shooting at Emanuel on June 17, 2015. We join them in spirit. Follow along this week as we share stories from the intersection of race and Southern food.
Counter Histories: Documenting the Struggle to Desegregate Southern Restaurants
When President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 on July 2 of that year, he leveraged the power of the federal government to desegregate places of public accommodation engaged in interstate commerce. Restaurants, including lunch counters, which were early flashpoints in the Civil Rights Movement, could no longer legally operate under Jim Crow dictates.
With vinyl spinner stools and long slabs of linoleum, lunch counters were designed as everyman spaces, where lawyers and laborers sat side by side to eat griddled burgers and fries. As COUNTER HISTORIES makes clear, those Southern spaces had not previously lived up to that ideal.
In 2014, the Southern Foodways Alliance worked with longtime collaborator Kate Medley to produce a series of films that mark the 50th anniversary of this landmark legislation. We commissioned five films from five teams across the South. SFA is proud of their good work and the collective spirit it represents.
Our goals are to put the restaurant desegregation struggles of the 1950s and 1960s in historical context, make clear what lessons were learned in the process, and ask what work remains to be done toward the welcome table ideal. These films share stories from our Southern past. And they demonstrate the relevance of these events in the present day.
We thank James Kelleway of Confit Design for creating the Counter Histories website.