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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


The Brown Family

Martha Brown was born in Bowdon, Georgia in 1946. Her family soon moved to Cleburne County, Alabama where her father, a World War II veteran, bought a small farm where he also cooked sorghum. After being drafted in the Korean War, Mrs. Brown’s father sold his farm and became a career military man. As a result, Mrs. Brown’s family moved to North Carolina, Georgia, Arizona, and New Jersey. When he retired, their family moved to Birmingham, Alabama. Mr. Gene Brown was born in 1940 in Cleburne County, Alabama. His father was a Baptist preacher and farmer. He grew up with his brothers, helping their father on their farm. Mr. and Mrs. Brown met when Mrs. Brown attended Jacksonville State University. In 1969, the couple married. They moved to Muscadine, Alabama a year later.

When Gene Brown retired in the late 1990s, he spent more time with Mrs. Brown’s father. Mr. Brown began to cook sorghum for his father in law because of the fond memories he related to him. A local community member, Reo Benefield, helped Mr. Brown learn how to cook sorghum. Sorghum making became a family affair. Gene Brown’s brothers Ralph and Winford and nephew Kyle Brown help every year. The rest of the family often comes together to help them bottle and eat the syrup.

Date of interview:

Annemarie Anderson

Annemarie Anderson

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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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