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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. If you would like to contribute to SFA’s oral history collections, please send your ideas for oral history along with your CV or Resume and a portfolio of prior oral history work to

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Pat Davis Sr., Owner of Abe's Bar-B-Que

Abe's Bar-B-Que

Pat Davis’s father, Abraham “Abe” Davis, immigrated to the United States from Zahlé, Lebanon, in about 1920. When his family landed in Clarksdale, Abe began peddling clothes to earn a living. He soon realized that he wasn’t cut out to be a salesman, so he took a job at a Greek-owned restaurant in town. There, he found his calling: food. In 1924 he opened a café on Fourth Street and started experimenting with barbecue.

When Pat was born in 1937, Clarksdale was known by some as “Little Lebanon.” He has fond memories of growing up in such a vibrant immigrant community. Pat’s family and friends gathered frequently at the Lebanese American Club. His grandmother made homemade phyllo dough in their family kitchen while singing Lebanese folk songs. His father sent him to the sugarcane field to fetch canes for him to make a mijwiz, a kind of double-flute. Pat grew up with a great appreciation for his heritage—and quite an appetite for stuffed grape leaves.

In 1960 Pat took over his father’s cafe. Today, Abe’s Bar-B-Q is landmark restaurant situated at the busy intersection of Highways 61 and 49. Regulars stop in for a Big Abe (a two-layer pulled-pork sandwich with Abe’s signature barbecue sauce), Blues pilgrims grab a plate of hot tamales (an ironic but iconic Delta food), and those in the know ask for the stuffed grape leaves.

Date of interview:
2010-07-26 00:00

Amy Evans

Amy Evans

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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.


Alex Raij Txikito

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