Uncovering the Hidden Voices of Enslaved Cooks and their Contributions

Media Contact: Jim Schepmoes



For Immediate Release                

STRATFORD, VA, (October 26, 2016) – On Saturday November 12, 2016, from 10:00 a.m. to 12 noon, Dr. Kelley Deetz will present a program on Virginia’s enslaved cooks, which will include a lecture in the duPont  Library and a tour of Stratford Hall’s historic kitchen—an eighteenth-century outbuilding.

Drawing extensively from her work When Her Chimneys Smoked: Virginia’s Enslaved Cooks and Their Kitchens, Dr. Deetz offers a wide-ranging interdisciplinary examination of Virginia’s enslaved plantation cooks seeking to advance our understanding of their contributions to Virginia’s rich cultural traditions. By examining the archaeological record, material culture, cultural landscapes, folklore, written records and racialized and gendered spaces, the lecture seeks to uncover the hidden voices of the men and women who cooked for the enslavers.

“We are very pleased to be able to bring Dr. Deetz to Stratford to speak on this important topic,” said Jon Bachman, Stratford Hall’s Public Events Manager. “We believe this program will be of interest to anyone seeking a more in-depth understanding of colonial life.”

Enslaved cooks were highly skilled, trained and professional, creating meals that made Virginia known for her cuisine and hospitality. They were at the core of the Virginia’s domesticity and culinary pride as well as the center of the plantation community. Archaeological and historical records reveal the centrality of the cook’s role, and the material culture exemplifies how cooks created a black landscape within a white world and were able to share this unique space with the large enslaved population.

Dr. Deetz holds a B.A. in Black Studies from the College of William and Mary, as well as a M.A. in African American Studies and Ph.D. in African Diaspora Studies from the University of California at Berkeley. She specializes in nineteenth-century African American culture, African Diaspora archaeology, and public history (tourism, memorials, and memory). She is the former Vice President and current Board Member of the Legacy Museum of African American History in Lynchburg, Virginia, and Co-Editor of the African Diaspora Archaeology Newsletter.

She is currently working on a manuscript entitled Bound to the Fire: Virginia’s Enslaved Cooks and their Kitchens, and her forthcoming chapter “Stolen Bodies, Edible Memories: The Influence and Function of West African Foodways in the Early British Atlantic” will be in The Routledge History of Food due for publication this fall. Deetz has worked extensively in Cultural Resource Management both in Virginia and California, and was a professional cook for over a decade.

Tickets for the program are $25.00 per person and advance registration by November 7, 2016 is required. Please register for the program by calling John Bachman at 804-493-1972 or emailing him at jbachman@stratfordhall.org.