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Oral Histories

The SFA oral history program documents life stories from the American South. Collecting these stories, we honor the people whose labor defines the region.


Sharon Grant Coakley, Linda Pinckney, Julie Grant, and Bobby Grant

Bertha's Kitchen

Albertha (Bertha) Grant never asked for much. Her children will tell you it was impossible to get her to spend money on herself (so they bought her a green Cadillac as a surprise for her 70th birthday). The things that mattered most to Bertha were her family, her church, and feeding people. Everyone loved her cooking; she wasn’t allowed to go to a beauty appointment without a plate for her hairstylist. After years of trying to convince Bertha to sell her food, Bobby Grant (Bertha’s oldest son) secretly converted two rooms of a motel into a kitchen for his mother. He wanted her to have something for herself: a business. He unveiled the surprise in 1981.

Bertha and her oldest daughter, Sharon Grant Coakley, opened Bertha’s Kitchen as a take-out operation. More than 30 years later and a few blocks down the street, the business is going strong. Customers line up outside before the doors open at 11. The same home-cooked meals are served: fried pork chops, turkey and rice, bread pudding, and Bertha’s signature lima beans, among many others. Her daughters—Sharon, Linda Pinckney, and Julie Grant—continue to run the business today. They haven’t changed a thing. In fact, the black chair that Bertha used to sit in remains in the same place in the kitchen today.

Bertha passed away in 2007. Almost 3,000 people attended her funeral. The procession closed down three counties, a testament to how many children consider her Mom.

This is Bertha Grant’s story as told by her children: Sharon Grant Coakley, Linda Pinckney, Julie Grant, and Bobby Grant.

Date of interview:

Sara Wood

Sara Wood

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The Southern Foodways Alliance drives a more progressive future by leading conversations that challenge existing constructs, shape perspectives, and foster meaningful discussions. We reconsider the past with research, scrutiny, and documentation.


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