National Food Writer to Speak on African Traditions at Oatlands

Oatlands is expecting big crowd on Sunday when nationally known food writer, scholar and culinary historian Michael Twitty presents a talk on the culinary traditions brought from Africa to America.

The “Afternoon with Michael Twitty” program is a collaboration by Oatlands Historic House and Gardens and the Black History Committee of Thomas Balch Library, as part their efforts to the research and document the experiences of Loudoun slaves.

Twitty will explore the legacy of imported African customs and their impact on American food culture, especially in the South.

Historian Lori Kimball heads the ongoing exploration of life in Oatlands’ slave community. Last year, Oatlands commemorated the 250th anniversary of Robert Carter III’s 1791 deed of gift, which emancipated more than 500 slaves, the largest private emancipation in the country’s history.

Robert Carter III lived in Nomini Hall in Virginia’s Northern Neck, owning land throughout Virginia, including the Goose Creek Tract in which the present-day Oatlands is located.

Sunday’s event came about through Kimball’s association with LaTonya Lawson-Jones, a descendant of slaves freed through Carter’s emancipation. She is the founder of the Nomini Hall Slave Legacy Project (

Lawson-Jones spoke during last year’s commemoration, and she and Kimball went out to dinner together.

“I mentioned that I would love to have Michael Twitty do a program at Oatlands,” Kimball recalled. To her delight, she discovered Twitty and Lawson-Jones were friends.

Lawson-Jones texted Twitty, and said Kimball would be calling him.

“I did, and he answered,” Kimball said this week, crediting Lawson-Jones with the successful outcome. “It was all due to that fortuitous connection.”

Twitty was recently named Colonial Williamsburg’s Revolutionary in Residence, to provide training and demonstrations for the Historic Foodways staff and historical interpreters. In his new role, he will also collaborate with the hospitality team on authentic recipes for the historic taverns and Traditions restaurant in the Williamsburg Lodge.

To read more about Twitty’s exploration of the culinary traditions of Africa, African America and the African Diaspora check his blog Afroculinaria. He is the author of “The Cooking Gene: A Journey through African-American Culinary History in the South,” scheduled to be published later this year.

Afternoon with Michael Twitty will be held at 2 p.m. in the pavilion tent, and is free. Kimball advises guests to wear comfortable shoes for the short walk to the tent. For more information on Sunday’s event, contact her at or 703-777-3174 ext. 3.

For information on tours of the mansion and gardens at Oatlands go to For more information on the Black History Committee, go to


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