Whiskey, Food, and Unpaid Labor


"Enslaved people were involved in every single aspect of Southern life. Even when someone didn’t — quote — “own enslaved people” or own slaves — we prefer to say enslaved people or enslaved person — enslaved folks were doing the work. And it’s very interesting, because you read these journals and writings of Southern planters, and it’s as if their hands are in the dirt, it’s as if their fingers are on the bricks, it’s as if their hands are in the kitchen and their hands are on the shovels. But they are not.” These words were spoken by Michael Twitty, a Black man and a culinary historian in an interview with John Yang on the PBS Newshour on July 4, 2016.

And what was the subject of the interview? It was a man named Nearis Green who was the Master Distiller that taught Jasper “Jack” Daniels to make whiskey. Mr. Green was an enslaved person -- enslaved by a man named Dan Call. Call “taught” Jack to make whiskey-but not really. His real teacher was Nearis Green-the Master Distiller. And what is Jack Daniels? It is the best selling whiskey in the world! In 2014 the company sold over $3,000,000,000 worth of whiskey! These facts are according to the company as reported recently in the New York Times.

In his interview Mr. Twitty goes on to speak of the general misappropriation of the intellectual work of enslaved peoples in America in every area of life. That’s right! The contribution of Unpaid Labor to the United States becoming the most successful country in the world in modern history was more than a physical contribution. It was also an indispensable contribution of intellect, entrepreneurship, invention, and innovation for which others got the credit.

Unpaid Labor salutes Michael Twitty for his commitment to his craft. Unpaid Labor salutes Michael Twitty for his commitment to unearth the contribution of enslaved African people in America to the nation’s culinary heritage. Unpaid Labor encourages others to do the same in their areas of expertise. Only then will the Honor, Dignity, and Standing be returned to the Nearis Green’s of the world. Only then will their descendants benefit from the Honor, Dignity, Hope, and Standing that is rightfully theirs. Only then will we all be helped to heal our nation’s racial divide.

To see Mr. Twitty’s interview go to the 33 minutes and 37 seconds point on the video at http://bit.ly/29mNmGo.