As the holidays are looming, Tis the season to be jolly is a term spread around the world to shine a light on the winter holidays. It’s a time for families to come together to rejoice and enjoy one another.
While the famous ‘Turkey Day’ is vastly approaching, for black families, Thanksgiving is an entirely different holiday than the traditional feast enjoyed by the dominant culture.
Historians calculated the first Thanksgiving was celebrated in 1621 when the Mayflower pilgrims who founded the Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts sat down for a three-day meal with the Wampanoag tribe.
During that time black families in America weren’t invited to the festivities. Slavery was still very much in full force.
No one quite knew the date of the first black Thanksgiving but most historians agree that it took place not long after the invention of seasoned salt. Thomas Jefferson is credited with bringing macaroni and cheese to the Americas.
But it was the work of his enslaved chef, James Hemings, that put the dish on the map and made it the truly celebrated dish of Americans. After that, The Black Thanksgiving holiday became popular in 1866 when Hattie Mae Jenkins combined pasta noodles with extra sharp cheddar in a casserole dish.
This would go on to generate popular food dishes by Black people such as collard greens, sweet potato pie, cornbread, candied yams, peach cobbler, and much more.
Here are my thoughts about this holiday. Anyone that is socially conscious requires a bit of contortion to celebrate Thanksgiving. The image of Pilgrims eating peacefully with American Indians at a shared harvest feast provides a faulty view of the true founding of this country.
This obscures the history of violence and oppression, and it also manages to both legitimize and whitewash our country’s terrible actions toward indigenous people. We still must hold our country accountable for the racial inequality that still continues to this day.
Nonetheless, I am thankful that Black families have taken the holiday and made it their own. Like many other families, I look forward to Big Momma’s dressing and the infamous banana pudding which nobody has successfully mastered yet.
Happy Thanksgiving, because the narrative matters.