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February 14, 2014
CONTACT: Gordon Ovenshine

History series details cooking, civil rights

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Slippery Rock University's "History Series on Racial Justice" continues with a Feb. 20 cooking demonstration by Michael Twitty, a Southern cuisine historian, and a March 3 keynote address on the civil rights movement by William Sturkey, history professor at the University of North Carolina.

The programs, at SRU's Old Stone House and the Smith Student Center Ballroom, are free and open to the public.

Twitty, a living-history interpreter from Rockville, Md., will cook in the fireplace hearth at the Old Stone House while explaining the influence of slave cooking on Southern and American cuisine.

"He will be talking about African-American contributions to American cuisine and offering samples of the food," said Aaron Cowan, SRU assistant professor of history. "The basic idea is that by not acknowledging African and African-American influence in our foods today, we erase them as key contributors to American culture."

Twitty came to prominence when he composed a blog criticizing celebrity chef Paula Dean for admitting she has used a racial slur. Twitty argues the food establishment has not given enough credit to American slaves for their role in the creation of Southern cuisine.

He treats food and recipes as historic texts, exploring connections between slavery and slave cooking techniques to show connections to modern Southern cuisine and soul food.

"The responsible exploration of the Southern food heritage demands that the cooks of colonial and Antebellum kitchens and enslaved people's cabins be honored for their unique role in giving the Southland her mother cuisine," Twitty said on his website. "It is important that we not only honor the ancestors but provide a lifeline to contemporary communities and people of color looking for a better life in the new economy, a way out of the health and chronic illness crisis, and a way to reduce the vast food deserts that plague many of our communities.

Twitty's cooking demonstration is from 9:30 to 11 am.

Cowan said shuttles will be provide for those needing a ride to the Old Stone House.

The theme of SRU's "Racial Justice Series" is the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed discrimination in schools, housing and restaurants.

Sturkey will present "Killing Jim Crow: The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Struggle to End Racial Segregation in Dixie," at noon, March 3.

"He'll talk about Jim Crow laws and about the struggles that made the Civil Rights Act happen," said Lia Paradis, SRU associate professor of history. So often our students treat historical events as if they came out of nowhere. We have to teach them that millions of people - like them - struggled in the shadows for decades in order to bring small change that led to large change."

Sturkey will lead a workshop from 1-2 p.m. in the ballroom.

Sturkey teaches African American and southern history with a research focus on race in the south and the civil rights movement. His first book is scheduled for publication later this year. It is an edited collection of newspapers, essays and poems written by young, black Freedom School students during the 1964 Mississippi Freedom summer. He is currently working on a book about Jim Crow laws.

Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.