U.S. News & World Report: UM’s Study the South journal featured in article

U.S. News & World Report: Black Americans Ditch Meat – and Stereotypes

By Joseph P. Williams

To get to Nisani Farm, and the edge of a burgeoning food and health movement, requires going to the end of the road. Literally.

It means taking a 90-minute drive south from Richmond, Virginia, to the tiny town of Keysville, then picking up Route 40, a two-lane highway that rolls through the woods and past the occasional soybean farm. Around the time the cellphone navigation app loses service, a few turns past a dusty service station and the nondescript Bank of Charlotte County leads to a single-lane blacktop road.

Before long, pavement yields to gravel, and an “End State Maintenance” sign appears – a landmark for the rutted dirt track to Nisani Farm, Ann Codrington’s self-described “happy place.” Though it’s isolated by city standards, with her nearest neighbor roughly a quarter-mile away, Codrington is in the middle of a trend that appears to have gained momentum in recent years: She’s black and she’s given up meat. Today, she mostly eats organic fruits and vegetables.


Yet experts say plant-based diets are common across the African diaspora. Religious group the Black Hebrew Israelites follow a vegan diet, while the Nation of Islam backs vegetarianism – former NOI leader Elijah Muhammad linked abstention from meat with racial nationalism and eschewed Southern soul food and its links to slavery, according to an article in the University of Mississippi’s Study the South journal.

Activists in the 1960s and 1970s embraced plant-based eating as a way to become healthier and fight the power, and it’s not unusual today to see black-owned vegetarian restaurants in urban neighborhoods. A more recent list of 100 black vegans includes Coretta Scott King, wife of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, a Democratic presidential candidate.

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