Lunchtime Talk with The John C. Haas Director of The Rosenbach, Kelsey Scouten Bates | “Hunger, collective memory, and the meaning of soul food in Gee’s Bend, Alabama” (in-person)

Date / Time

  • June 7, 2022
    12:30 pm - 1:30 pm


2008-2010 Delancey Place, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 19103, United States

This program is sponsored by Lenore Steiner and Perry Lerner 


  • Admission is $15. Student admission is $10. 50% off for Rosenbach members, free for the Delancey Society. Not a member? Learn more.
  • This is an in-person program at The Rosenbach and requires proof of vaccination. Please check your spam folder for your email confirmation. If you have questions, please call (215) 732-1600 or email [email protected].
  • Registration opens for Delancey Society members on March 2, for members on March 9, and for the general public on March 16.


Between 1979 and 1981, journalist Kathryn Tucker Windham conducted approximately 30 interviews of the residents of Gee’s Bend—an African American community isolated in the “Black Belt” region of Alabama. The interviews provide a rare first-hand account of the lives of African Americans in Alabama between 1910 and 1981 as they discuss, among other things, food traditions. Remembered by nearly every interviewee is a catastrophic incident during which the family of a deceased white merchant, who had been lending Gee’s Benders agricultural supplies, collected (with force) all of their agricultural property. Lacking any means to support themselves, residents were required to eat what they had hidden away, share their food with each other, and find comfort in the familiar foods that had become a part of the community’s cuisine. The incident left a lasting community-wide association between food, ownership, and freedom, conveyed in the interviews through a collective narrative. The narrative reinforces the idea that Gee’s Bend food traditions developed out of a long history of adversity with whites, food sharing and frugality, and reliance on God. The Gee’s Bend interviews provide a local example of the evolution of American soul food.     

About the Speaker 

The John C. Haas Director of The Rosenbach, Kelsey Scouten Bates, is a native of Maryland and spent ten years in Alabama where she conducted a rhetorical analysis of the Gee’s Bend interviews, housed in the Birmingham Public Library Department of Archives & Manuscripts. Kelsey is a student of writing and rhetoric—she earned her M.S. at Towson University in Baltimore—and American History—she earned her B.A. at University of Maryland, College Park. She is currently working on a creative non-fiction writing project that combines her own family history and the history of the Appalachian mountains. 

About Lunchtime Talks at The Rosenbach 

Enjoy In Conversation Programs at midday with leading scholars, artists, and authors talking about their work. Tea sandwiches and light refreshments included. 

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