African American Foodways

Learn about the history and culture of African American foodways by watching this three-part video series (funded by the Arts Council of Anne Arundel County). This series highlights the fun and food at Sparrow's and Carr's Beaches, a discussion of African American truck farming in North Anne Arundel County, and the history of Mrs.Crowner's Cookhouse in Historic Galesville.

Vince Leggett, “Admiral of the Chesapeake” and founder of the Blacks of the Chesapeake Foundation discusses historical accounts and memories of the famous beach venues owned and operated by Elizabeth Carr Smith and her sister Florence Carr Sparrow during the 1930s-1970s. Leggett highlights the culinary aspects of these extremely popular African American retreats situated on the Chesapeake Bay, south of Annapolis. Participants actively involved in this engaging program helped to answer the following questions:

  • What types of foods were grown on these beach properties?
  • What types of food were sold at restaurants, lounges, and concessions located there?
  • Who were the famous cooks, chefs, and caterers who supplied the needs of beach goers? What items were in picnic baskets?



Historical researcher, Irving E. Gaither, explores African American farming, truck farming, and foodways in Northern Anne Arundel County. Gaither belongs to an accomplished and highly respected family with early roots in agriculture. Seven generations of the Gaither worked successfully as farmers in the Severn area, cultivating a wide range of fruit and vegetables. The produce they grew and marketed not only sustained our local communities, but was transported by land and water to Baltimore and regions beyond. Gaither shares his in-depth research into the origins, cultural traditions, and socioeconomic aspects of local farming and truck farming, including the enslavement of Africans brought to colonial tobacco plantations, the talents and expertise they provided, and the considerable wealth their forced and exploited labor generated.

This interactive presentation reimagines Margaret Crowner’s Cook Shop, a two-room structure built in 1941 that was a central gathering place in Galesville, Maryland during segregation and afterward. As part of this educational program, genealogist and oral historian, Lyndra Marshall (née Pratt), interviews members of the Crowner family, including LTC. Samuel “Rodney” Hull, grandson of Margaret and Benjamin Crowner and son of Harriet Crowner Hull and Oliver Hull, as well as granddaughter Sylvia Crowner Butler and great-niece Henrietta Crowner Stevenson. Also featured is an engaging cooking demonstration by Gertrude Makell [a well-known cook in the community and president of the Galesville Community Center Organization, Inc. (GCCO)] along with the community center cooking team, followed by a sampling of the types of food served at the Cook Shop. Doris Sellman Foote, native of Galesville, a Crowner family member, and another well-known cook in the community, prepared the desserts or baked the desserts.