A Black Food Historian Explores His Bittersweet Connection To Robert E. Lee

Michael Twitty's enslaved ancestors witnessed the Confederate general's surrender, the significance of which weaves through his new memoir as he seeks 'culinary justice' for African Americans.
One of Twitty's projects is his "Southern Discomfort Tour" — a journey through the "forgotten little Africa" of the Old South. He picks cotton, chops wood, works in rice fields and cooks for audiences in plantation kitchens while dressed in slave clothing to recreate what his ancestors had to endure. Source: Courtesy of Michael Twitty

Over the past few months, as the contentious ghost of Robert E. Lee galloped through the headlines, Southern food historian Michael W. Twitty's thoughts turned to the bittersweet connection his family shares with the Confederate general.

On April 9, 1865, Twitty's great-great grandfather, Elijah Mitchell, and his older brother, George, happened to be on a street in the village of Appomattox Court House, Va., when General Lee, in full dress uniform, exited the McLean House after surrendering to Union General Ulysses S. Grant. It didn't take long for the two teenage lads to grasp the import of that ceremonial tableau.

"At that moment, as the Confederacy's 150-year mourning period began," writes Twitty in his new book, , "my great-great grandfather and his brother counted themselves among the first black people to find out that the long nightmare of American slavery — nearly three centuries in the making — was over. Their slaveholder, Blake

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