Eating While Black

Food Shaming and Race in America

By Psyche A. Williams-Forson

264 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 12 halftones, notes, bibl., index

  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-6845-1
    Published: August 2022
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-6846-8
    Published: May 2022
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-5479-7
    Published: May 2022

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Awards & distinctions

2023 James Beard Foundation Book Award (Food Issues and Advocacy)

Psyche A. Williams-Forson is one of our leading thinkers about food in America. In Eating While Black, she offers her knowledge and experience to illuminate how anti-Black racism operates in the practice and culture of eating. She shows how mass media, nutrition science, economics, and public policy drive entrenched opinions among both Black and non-Black Americans about what is healthful and right to eat. Distorted views of how and what Black people eat are pervasive, bolstering the belief that they must be corrected and regulated. What is at stake is nothing less than whether Americans can learn to embrace nonracist understandings and practices in relation to food.

Sustainable culture—what keeps a community alive and thriving—is essential to Black peoples' fight for access and equity, and food is central to this fight. Starkly exposing the rampant shaming and policing around how Black people eat, Williams-Forson contemplates food's role in cultural transmission, belonging, homemaking, and survival. Black people's relationships to food have historically been connected to extreme forms of control and scarcity—as well as to stunning creativity and ingenuity. In advancing dialogue about eating and race, this book urges us to think and talk about food in new ways in order to improve American society on both personal and structural levels.

About the Author

Psyche A. Williams-Forson, the author of Building Houses out of Chicken Legs: Black Women, Food, and Power, is professor of American studies at the University of Maryland, College Park.

For more information about Psyche A. Williams-Forson, visit the Author Page.


"Unpacking the ugly history of racist stereotypes, exclusionary agricultural policies, and the cultural assumption that Black people's lives need monitoring, this is a book that celebrates the diversity of Black American food culture across the United States. . . . Eating While Black is a thoughtful text with insights into how much unwelcome extra tension and "heaviness" lands on Black Americans' plates."—Foreword Reviews

"From cooking lessons that urge 'healthier' ways to prepare a pot of collard greens to policies that suggest Black people have the worst health records because of what they eat, in her latest examination of food and culture, Williams-Forson says such food shaming is anti-Black racism. Denigrating Blacks for enjoying foods that represent their cultural and spiritual roots deprives Black Americans their identity. Combining personal experience with insights from popular culture, Williams-Forson describes how even in their consumption of food, Black people are often perceived as transgressing, misbehaving, and in need of 'gastronomic' surveillance."—Civil Eats

"Everybody eats, so what's political about eating? After reading Eating While Black, the answer is clear: everything."—LIBER: A Feminist Review

"Eating While Black looks at Black food culture along the broader tablecloth of structural and systemic racism, violence, degradation, socioeconomics, and exploitation...The stories, anecdotes, and analyses are illuminating...insightful."—INDY Week

"Eating While Black invites us all to examine how racial, class, and other anxieties often drive institutions and individuals to consciously or unconsciously inflict harm on Black people (and everyone else). Psyche Williams-Forson's analysis calls for a deeper understanding of the ways in which expressions of 'concern' over how we grow food, cook, and eat are often more about policing our behavior and patrolling the boundaries of race and class."—Bryant Terry, James Beard Award– and NAACP Image Award–winning author of Black Food and editor in chief of 4 Color Books

“Psyche Williams-Forson has gifted us a profoundly personal new work that beautifully troubles our ideas around the efficacy of the food justice movement in communities of color while engaging us in developing a delicately nuanced praxis for reframing Black food culture as a site for liberation. I’m going to be sitting with this book for a while.”—Thérèse Nelson, founder of