To Live and Dine in Dixie
The Evolution of Urban Food Culture in the Jim Crow South

Angela Jill Cooley

How cultural notions contributed to the racial segregation of cafés and restaurants in the American South


“I cannot overstate how useful it is that Cooley is trained both as a cultural historian and as a lawyer. The richness of analysis in To Live and Dine in Dixie comes from the interplay of methodologies from both fields. Few other scholars can bring such research tools to the subject.”
—Elizabeth Engelhardt, author of A Mess of Greens: Southern Gender and Southern Food

To Live and Dine in Dixie is an important addition to the canon of southern history and food studies.”
—Marcie Cohen Ferris, author of The Edible South: The Power of Food and the Making of an American Region

"How does Angela Jill Cooley cover so much ground, and so well, in under 200 pages? To Live and Dine in Dixie is thoughtful and concise, and it adds meaningfully to the growing canon of incisive writing on Southern foodways. Like her contemporaries in the field, Cooley expertly utilizes foodways to deliver a trenchant critique of the Jim Crow South."
—Catarina Passidomo, Southern Register

“The book would be useful in a wide range of courses beyond food history, including urban history, the history of the South, African American history, and business history courses. In a food studies course it would offer an excellent point of departure for discussions and research projects about local dining laws, the relationship of restaurant décor and enforcement of racial agendas, and many other topics that will enrich the food studies library.”
—Megan Elias, H-Net Reviews

"While this book could easily be considered as a focus on civil rights issues over food, it uses urban food places and gathering to explain how cooking and dining translate to public issues. As a culinary history, per se, it's something quite different, and is a recommendation for not just food history readers, but any involved in civil rights history and issues."
Midwest Book Review

"To Live and Dine in Dixie packs a considerable punch with its connection of modern Southern dining attitudes to their Jim Crow predecessors, substantiated by wide-ranging research and refreshingly informed by Cooley's expertise on legal matters. It's an eye-opening read for anybody, but those who either live or were raised in the "post-racial" South might find it an especially educational experience."
—Wendell McKay, Repast

"Angela Jill Cooley's compelling history argues that public eateries were a flashpoint in the urban Jim Crow South because they endangered the region's racial hierarchy. By attending de facto and de jure segregation as a 'careful performance of race-specific roles' designed to support white supremacy and by amply demonstrating food culture as its main stage, Cooley richly complicates understanding of the evolving New South city."
—Ann Folino White, Journal of American History

“Cooley provides an invaluable look at home a fundamental human activity wad twisted and reshaped by racial power dynamics throughout most of the twentieth century.”
—Beth Fowler, Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

“In this fascinating look at the social and legal effects of changing foodways in the twentieth-century South, Angela Jill Cooley argues that white southerners prioritized racial and gender control as they adapted first to a new urban culture and then to a mass consumer economy….Clearly, Cooley’s training in both the law and cultural history serve her well.”
—Stephanie Cole, The Journal of Southern History

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This book explores the changing food culture of the urban American South during the Jim Crow era by examining how race, ethnicity, class, and gender contributed to the development and maintenance of racial segregation in public eating places. Focusing primarily on the 1900s to the 1960s, Angela Jill Cooley identifies the cultural differences between activists who saw public eating places like urban lunch counters as sites of political participation and believed access to such spaces a right of citizenship, and white supremacists who interpreted desegregation as a challenge to property rights and advocated local control over racial issues.

Significant legal changes occurred across this period as the federal government sided at first with the white supremacists but later supported the unprecedented progress of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which—among other things—required desegregation of the nation’s restaurants. Because the culture of white supremacy that contributed to racial segregation in public accommodations began in the white southern home, Cooley also explores domestic eating practices in nascent southern cities and reveals how the most private of activities—cooking and dining— became a cause for public concern from the meeting rooms of local women’s clubs to the halls of the U.S. Congress.

Southern Foodways Alliance Studies in Culture, People, and Place

Page count: 208
Trim size: 6 x 9


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Angela Jill Cooley is an assistant professor of history at Minnesota State University, Mankato. She has a PhD from the University of Alabama and a JD from the George Washington University Law School.