What It Means to Be American
A National Conversation

Identities

The Enslaved Chefs Who Invented Southern Hospitality

Black Cooks Created the Feasts that Gave the South Its Reputation for Gracious Living 

By Kelley Fanto Deetz

“We need to forget about this so we can heal,” said an elderly white woman, as she left my lecture on the history of enslaved cooks and their influence on American cuisine.  Something I said, or perhaps everything I said, upset her.

My presentation covered 300 years of American history that started with the forced enslavement of millions of Africans, and which still echoes in our culture today, from the myth of the “happy servant” (think Aunt Jemima on the syrup …

Ideas

The 41-Volume Government Report That Turned Immigration Into a Problem

In 1911, the Dillingham Commission Set a Half-Century Precedent for Screening Out 'Undesirable' Newcomers

By Robert F. Zeidel

The Dillingham Commission is today little known. But a century ago, it stood at the center of a transformation in immigration policy, exemplifying Americans’ simultaneous feelings of fascination and fear toward the millions of migrants who have made the United States their home.

In 1911, the Dillingham Commission produced perhaps the most extensive investigation of immigration in the history of the country, an exhaustive 41-volume study that demonstrated just how vital 19th-century and early-20th-century immigrants were to the U.S. economy. But …