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Freda DeKnight: A 'Hidden Figure' And Titan of African-American Cuisine

by  CN Team on February 25, 2017
Freda DeKnight: A 'Hidden Figure' And Titan of African-American Cuisine

Freda DeKnight was Ebony's first food editor and author of a best-selling African-American cookbook in the 1940s. Her recipes presented a vision of black America that was often invisible in mainstream media.

Inside the dark theater, during a recent showing of Hidden Figures, the pioneering food journalist and cookbook writerFreda DeKnight came to mind several times. The Oscar-nominated film highlights the lives of three African-American women whose brilliant mathematical contributions to NASA and the Apollo program were left out of most magazines, news reports and books that covered the U.S. space program.

As a Baby Boomer, born the decade following their amazing accomplishments, I felt betrayed by national media when I first discovered that their brilliance had been concealed from me during a time when I needed it most. I grew up during a decade my parents described as the "tough, but necessary path of integration" in the midst of the Civil Rights movement, the Vietnam War, and the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr.

Later, when my friend referred to the purposeful leaving out of African-American accomplishments as a "separate and unequal" approach to American history, she mentioned a plan. "Our job isn't done until we pull every 'hidden figure' out of the American history closet," she said, adding that we should each dig deeper into our field of expertise. Which is why, as an African-American food journalist, I am concerned about culinary "hidden figures." So I'll begin with this question: What do you know about Freda DeKnight?

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