Do you know why fried chicken is linked to black history? In the latter half of the 1800s, a town named Gordonsville in Virginia had become the “fried chicken capital of the world”. The town had only about 900 people, but business opportunities for women were absolutely zero. So then how did women become the cheerleaders who spread the culture of eating fried chicken across the globe?

The nineteenth century was also a time when the Civil War broke out. This was the very first time when trains became a major factor, and railroads became the lifeline. There were two trains that crossed the town of Gordonsville, making a stop at the train platform.

As these trains did not have any dining facilities, the passengers bought fried chicken from the African-American women who rushed to offer snacks made by them; their delicious fried chicken was passed through the open windows.

Financial independence came for those who were using cooking skills to earn a livelihood. What they made was not just standard fried chicken. These women had years of cooking experience and were absolutely adept at seasoning and frying. So selling these skills to make money was a beacon of hope. They also made other foods along with fried chicken, which they would have cooked for the white people when they worked for them. But money did not bring them the respect that white-collared professionals had, yet. This was a time when slavery was a horrible institution in America, and even today, fried chicken is a reminder of the sufferings of black women. Some people know that it led to women empowerment in some way and forged the tradition of making southern-style fried chicken that a lot of blacks take pride in. But fried chicken comes with a murky past that we should acknowledge. 

There are, of course, many other fried chicken versions such as the Japanese karaage, the Nashville fried chicken, the Parsi chicken farcha, Korean fried chicken and so on! But let’s not forget that the southern-style fried chicken allowed women to share a piece of their food culture with others and stand on their feet; that’s how important it is. If one wants to properly frame history in the right way, we must expand our knowledge about the origins of popular foods. 

The identity of the city of Gordonsville was linked with fried chicken, as the women in the town were so good at it. But today, the legacy has almost disappeared with the rise of fast-food chains. Yet, there are a few African-American women who continue to carry it forward.