No watermelon for Black History Month

Plans to celebrate Black History Month with a lunch of fried chicken, cornbread and watermelon have been canceled at a Christian girls school in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Principal Nancy Libby sent an apology letter to parents and held an assembly to discuss the issue.

“Chicken, watermelon, collard greens — these are stereotypes of black Southern culture that come from the same place where the N-word comes from,” said University of San Francisco Professor James Taylor. 

After the menu drew complaints, Libby consulted with Black Student Union members on campus. They nixed the watermelon,  but it looks like fried chicken and cornbread are off the menu too.

About Joanne


  1. Can they invite me – I love fried chicken, cornbread and watermelon

  2. Yeah, ’cause we all know nobody eats fried chicken except black people.

  3. I grew up in Yankee territory closer to Canada than the Confederacy and none of us knew we weren’t supposed to like fried chicken, cornbread and watermelons. We considered fried chicken and cornbread to be year-round favorites and ate watermelon all through the summer. I admit that collards weren’t part of the scene, since the climate was more suitable for cabbage, but I sure know plenty of white southerners who grew up eating them. What rot! People should grow thicker skins and find something more useful to do with their time.
    PS: For Christmas, I gave my DD and her white, southern husband a cast-iron frying pan just big enough for two servings of cornbread and the recipe to fit it; they were delighted, not offended

  4. Thinly Veiled Anonymity says:

    The problem isn’t that traditional African American cuisine is racist.

    The problem is that it’s distinctly associated with African Americans. It’s absolutely impossible to pick out ANYTHING about African Americans — clothing, food, music, dialects — without pissing someone off. You’re bound to either invoke traditional notions of African American culture, in which case you’re also invoking slavery and segregation by proxy, or you’ll invoke more modern notions of African American culture, in which case you’re also invoking the myriad social dysfunctions that accompany that culture.

    In either case, you’re a racist.

    So unless you’re Black, it’s best to keep Black History Month limited to six topics: Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Jackie Robinson, Brown v. Board of Education, Harriet Tubman, and Barack Obama.

    Travel outside that narrow range of issues at your own peril.

  5. When I went to West Point in the 1980s, each year we would celebrate the “Flipper Dinner”–in honor of West Point’s first black graduate, Henry O. Flipper. Many black cadets would go off to a different room for a more formal dinner, and I don’t know what they ate, but the rest of us were served fried chicken, etc. We didn’t think it racist at all and looked forward to the good food.

  6. I’m not crazy about watermelon but count me in for the cornbread and fried chicken.

    Maybe instead though they should serve chitlings, black-eyed peas and sassafras tea. Now that’s authentic.

  7. Miller Smith says:

    WASP History Month lunch will serve white bread cheese sandwiches with mayo? Who thinks up this stuff?

  8. If common sense and historical/cultural context were possible (and I know that’s not likely), Black History Month should discuss Black food traditions, foods brought to this country during the slave trade era (although a number of such had been first brought to Africa from South America – millet, sorghum, yams, peanuts) and how they were incorporated into other food/cultural traditions in this country (gumbo, rice, black-eyed peas, sugar, eggplant). That process has been literally a melting pot. Perhaps someday, such things can be discussed with no more animus than St Patrick’s Day offerings usually include potatoes (and school kids should be taught why), Chinese New Year’s often means dumplings, noodles, pork and oranges, and Christmas Eve means tourtiere (French Canadian tradition). My kids loved learning that stuff. We’d look up recipes and make meals from dozens of cultures.

    • PS: According to Wikipedia and other quick-look sources, watermelon came from South America to Africa and thence to the US.

      In further recognition of black history, consider the Underground Railroad (station 30″ from my home town), the Tuskegee Airmen, the selective years of Dunbar HS in DC, and the poetry of Countee Cullen (taught in my fathers NE military school in the 1920s) and other early writers.

  9. Roger Sweeny says:

    The problem isn’t that this menu is inherently racist. It isn’t. The problem is simply that offering it as part of Black History Month is bad manners–like serving your evangelical Christian friends a 666 salad.

    It doesn’t matter why it’s offensive, whether there is a good reason or not. Sufficient that it is.

    • Roger Sweeny says:

      Not serving this as part of Black History Month is like not having a 13th floor in a tall building.