Food and the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement: re-reading the 1962-1963 Greenwood Food Blockade

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The relationship between food and the American civil rights movement is often storied within the context of lunch counter sit-ins. Yet, food not only functioned as a backdrop to protests and demonstrations, it also took center stage. In the Mississippi Delta, for instance, an event known by activists as the 1962–1963 Greenwood Food Blockade illuminated the centrality of food to movement politics. Rarely remarked upon or discussed in detail, scholars read the blockade as an isolated disruption to the Mississippi Civil Rights movement, overlooking the significance of this event. In this paper, I attempt to recover the Greenwood Food Blockade from narratives of the civil rights movement and offer an alternative reading of the event. This reading is instructive and extends what we know about the civil rights movement in important ways. First, it enlarges our understanding of food as a weapon, tool, tactic, and everyday preoccupation in the civil rights era. Second, it amplifies the role of poor rural black communities, local activists, and women in dictating the civil rights agenda in tandem with national activists. Third, it shows how these actors engaged in everyday food politics central to our understandings of food justice and food sovereignty today.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)382-398
Number of pages17
JournalFood, Culture and Society
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 26 2020


  • Food
  • Greenwood Food Blockade
  • Mississippi Delta
  • civil rights movement
  • everyday food politics
  • race
  • rural black communities

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Social Psychology
  • Cultural Studies


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