African and Native American foodways and resilience

From 1619 to COVID-19


  • Lindsey Lunsford Tuskegee University
  • Melvin L. Arthur University of Wyoming
  • Christine M. Porter University of Wyoming



African American Foodways, Native American Foodways, Food Justice, Ethnography, Restorying, Resilience, Food Systems


The COVID-19 pandemic is flooding and splitting “efficiency” fault lines in today’s industrialized food system. It also exploits centuries of historical traumas, White supremacy, and systemic racism to kill non-White people at triple the rates of Whites.

      In 1619, an English ship landed on the shores of the Powhatan confederacy, or, as the English called it, Point Comfort, Virginia. The ship delivered stolen people onto stolen land. This was a first step in founding today’s U.S. food system. Until that time, the people of North America and West Africa had lived off the land for millennia, foraging, hunting, and cultivating food. But 400 years ago, the twin European colonial influences of invasion and enslavement entwined the lives and, to some extent, the foodways of Native Americans and West Africans in what is now the U.S.

Yet, these communities are still resilient. This paper offers re-stories about how African Ameri­can and Native American communities have adapted and maintained foodways to survive, thrive and renew, from 1619 to COVID-19. Methods include historical and literature reviews, interviews, and brief auto-ethnography.

Even in the face of a pandemic, Native Ameri­can and African American communities still lever­age their foodways to survive and thrive. Some of these food system strategies also illustrate shifts that could be made in the United States food system to help everyone thrive.


Metrics Loading ...

Author Biographies

Lindsey Lunsford, Tuskegee University

Assistant Professor, College of Agriculture Environment and Nutrition Sciences

Melvin L. Arthur, University of Wyoming

Research Scientist, Department of Kinesiology and Health

Christine M. Porter, University of Wyoming

Professor and Wyoming Excellence Chair of Community and Public Health; Growing Resilience Principal Investigator; Division of Kinesiology & Health, College of Health Sciences

Logo for JAFSCD Responds to the COVID-19 Pandemic with INFAS cosponsorship



How to Cite

Lunsford, L., Arthur, M., & Porter, C. (2021). African and Native American foodways and resilience: From 1619 to COVID-19. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 10(4), 241–265.



Papers on the Impact of COVID-19 on the Food System