Black Food Geographies

Race, Self-Reliance, and Food Access in Washington, D.C.

By Ashanté M. Reese

Foreword by Dara Cooper

184 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 12 halftones, 3 maps, 3 tables

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-5150-7
    Published: April 2019
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-5149-1
    Published: April 2019
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-5151-4
    Published: March 2019
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-5510-7
    Published: March 2019

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Awards & distinctions

2020 Margaret Mead Award, American Anthropological Association and the Society for Applied Anthropology

2020 Association for the Study of Food and Society Book Award

In this book, Ashanté M. Reese makes clear the structural forces that determine food access in urban areas, highlighting Black residents’ navigation of and resistance to unequal food distribution systems. Linking these local food issues to the national problem of systemic racism, Reese examines the history of the majority-Black Deanwood neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Based on extensive ethnographic fieldwork, Reese not only documents racism and residential segregation in the nation’s capital but also tracks the ways transnational food corporations have shaped food availability. By connecting community members’ stories to the larger issues of racism and gentrification, Reese shows there are hundreds of Deanwoods across the country.

Reese’s geographies of self-reliance offer an alternative to models that depict Black residents as lacking agency, demonstrating how an ethnographically grounded study can locate and amplify nuances in how Black life unfolds within the context of unequal food access.

About the Author

Ashanté M. Reese is assistant professor of anthropology at Spelman College.
For more information about Ashanté M. Reese, visit the Author Page.


“A formidable and productive contribution to the existing literature. Students, scholars, and practitioners from across the fields of anthropology, geography, food systems, and food studies will derive enormous benefit and gain a crucial toolkit for imagining anti-racist futures from reading this book.”—Medical Anthropology Quarterly

“In contrast to the barren emptiness implied by the term food desert, Reese also captures the resilience, creativity and dynamism that exist in the historically Black community of Deanwood in Washington, D.C. . . . [And] offers something more complicated and more radical in her telling. Not quick fixes, but imaginative possibilities for a new kind of urban food system – one with liberatory potential.”—City

“As a scholarly work crafted through anthropological methods, Black Food Geographies does not simply outline, critique, and analyze food geographies in D.C. Instead it includes the voices of the residents that create and make productive use of Deanwood’s green spaces – introducing the Black lives that make Black spaces matter. . . . [And] brings to the surface histories that are often elided in critical food studies and geography.”—Society and Space

Black Food Geographies illuminates the role of black people as agents in history rather than as passive participants at the whim of sociopolitical and economic forces that sustain racial hierarchies. It reveals their past and present agency in the production of food in everyday life, an often-overlooked area in scholarship on southern agricultural history and the black freedom struggle. . . . [Reese] also speaks to how scholars can bridge the gap between the past and the present to understand the future of black lives.”—Journal of Southern History

Black Food Geographies demonstrates how systemic food inequity shapes the daily experience of people living in a neighborhood with low food access. While the book does not necessarily offer solutions, it does tell us quite explicitly that communities are not passively waiting for outside help, even though they recognize that outside change will also be needed in addition to their community-based efforts. Dr. Reese also reminds us that numbers do not tell the story. People do that, and we can learn a lot when we listen.”—Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development

“Reese’s study serves as a valuable contribution to scholarly and policy discussions of food deserts. . . . Black Food Geographies offers a welcome and fresh perspective on food justice.”—Washington History