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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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Waunda Mays

Waunda Mays, daughter of Dan Mays, has been working at Sam’s Barbecue in East Austin since her father purchased the restaurant in 1978. The restaurant, one of Austin’s oldest African American barbecue restaurants, has been around since the 1940s. The Mays family purchased the restaurant from Dan’s cousin Sam, the original proprietor of Sam’s. She was a school bus driver before beginning work at the family business. A fire destroyed Sam’s in 1992, but loyal customers led an effort to rebuild the neighborhood barbecue institution. Waunda’s not shy about disclosing the primary ingredients in her family’s barbecue: love. She reiterated that love is the most important part of Sam’s barbecue at every opportunity. Austin’s East side community seems to agree, as do many tourists and other Austinites. Patrons come from all around the world to sample Sam’s barbecue, including the late great Stevie Ray Vaughan and Richard Roundtree, the original Shaft. The brisket is Sam’s specialty, and the restaurant stays open until four o’clock in the morning.

Date of interview:
2007-03-02 00:00

Anna Martin and Andrew Busch

Marvin Bendele

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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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