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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.

ORAL HISTORY

Angela Brown


Thomas M. Brown, Jr. is a farmer. He plants soy, wheat, hay, and oats to sell on the market. Additionally, he grows corn, squash, zucchini, and broccoli, okra, butter beans, collards, and cabbage for his restaurant’s massive buffet line. At Brown’s Bar-B-Q, these fresh vegetables are served in season alongside pilau rice and white rice, macaroni, yams, barbecue chicken and fried chicken, barbecue turkey and baked turkey, barbecue ribs, smoked ham, potato salad, coleslaw, and, yes, chopped barbecue.

A motorcycle accident left a teenage Thomas Brown with a broken leg. Confined to bed and with a hot plate set up within reach, he learned to cook for himself. In 1981, he started serving takeout plates—rice and gravy, yams, barbecue—from a window on the family farm. A decade later, he built the dining room, as large as the buffet table is long.

At Brown’s Bar-B-Q, dinner, or lunch, is like Thanksgiving eating enjoyed every day of the week: the fresh vegetables, the variety of meats, all the desserts that can’t fit on one plate. It’s hard to keep track of all the gravies.

Date of interview:
2012-06-17 00:00

Interviewer:
Rien Fertel

Photographer:
Denny Culbert

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