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UNPACKING THE CHICKEN BOX: THE STORY BEHIND BALTIMORE'S CARRYOUT STAPLE

By Brittany Britto | The Baltimore Sun

Psyche Williams-Forson, associate professor and chair of the American studies department at UMD, unpacks the historical connections between black migration in the early 20th century and Baltimore's fast-food staple, the chicken box:

"Though evidence is scant on how chicken boxes evolved, some scholars suggest a link to "shoebox specials" — packed lunches that became a necessity during black migration in the early to mid-20th century.

" 'When [African-Americans] traveled, they had to pack their food,' said Psyche Williams-Forson, an author and associate professor and chair of the American studies department at University of Maryland, College Park.

"In her book, 'Building Houses Out of Chicken Legs: Black Women, Food, and Power,' she explains that restaurants, rest areas and gas stations 'were harbingers of hostility for black people.' 'The Negro Motorist Green Book,' a guide that included service stops that would accommodate African-Americans, was helpful, but the shoebox specials, containing items that were cheap and 'traveled well' without refrigeration or reheating, were often the only surefire method to keep black migrants sustained during long drives, bus rides or train trips, Williams-Forson said."

Read the complete article at The Baltimore Sun.

Date of Publication: 
3/15/17