Southern Mac and Cheese – Josh Tiddy

Mac and Cheese in the south has a rich history of original European influence and African American adaptation. The use of pasta in conjunction with cheese to create a creamy product was present in

James Hemings

Europe in the 19th century. Because of Thomas Jefferson’s interest and frequent visits to France, he and his personal enslaved chef, James Hemings (pictured to the left), witnessed the dish being used in European applications. They brought these techniques back to America. Both Jefferson’s family and, more recently, James Hemings are accredited to the foundation of Southern mac and cheese. In 1802, Jefferson and Hemings’ son served, “a pie called macaroni.” – Manasseh Cutler. While Cutler was not entirely impressed by the casserole-style dish, The elite South became very interested in the dish. Via causation, “Cooking techniques were passed down from slave to slave, within the black community.” (Fowler) It was adopted as a Southern tradition among upper class citizens and a heritage dish among African American slaves that cooked for said elites. Despite the Southerner’s general distaste for the changes brought about in the Industrial Revolution, easier access to mac and cheese was favorable to most. This is when it truly adopted the name of a, “comfort food,” as it was more accessible to impoverished communities. African Americans, specifically, could use the culinary techniques of their formerly enslaved relatives to enhance mac and cheese culture. The influence of African Americans on Southern mac and cheese from this point forward is what brought the traditions surrounding it to their contemporary point.

Mac and Cheese is notably different in the South and its unique traits are what makes it southern. The signature of Mac and Cheese in the South is its baked nature. A, “roux” is made with butter and flour, and is combined with milk to make a, “bechamel.” This technique, as is hinted in the names, is native to French cuisine. Southern influence is responsible for rich cheeses that are added at the end of the bechamel process and poured into heavily boiled macaroni. Southern Mac and Cheese shows little concern with the doneness of the pasta when compared to European techniques. Cheese and/or bread is used to top the signature casserole dish of southern mac and cheese before it is put in an oven to reduce the cheese mixture and brown the toppings. This is the most basic description of a Southern Mac and Cheese culinary process. It is often improvised and changed upon, and is very unique between different African American or other Southern families.

The distinctive traits of the process of making a Southern Mac and Cheese is symbolic of many aspects of the South. It can be observed that the process described above is very time consuming and it is a labor of love. That is entirely the nature of food in the South. The slower and familial way of life is represented perfectly by Mac and Cheese and other family style dishes like it.

Works Cited:

Fowler, Damon Lee. Dining at Monticello: In Good Taste and Abundance.  Thomas Jefferson Foundation, 2005.

Person. “The History of Slavery in the Cultivation of Mac & Cheese.” ArcGIS StoryMaps, Esri, 24 Dec. 2019, 

“Macaroni and Cheese.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 27 Oct. 2020,

Mississippi Quarterly: The Journal of Southern Cultures – Kevin Riley and Josh Tiddy

The Mississippi Quarterly is a journal founded in 1948 published by Mississippi State University which is based in Starkville, Mississippi. This journal is dedicated to publishing scholarly work, especially in the field of southern studies. They publish scholarly essays, reviews, interviews, and other subjects. It exhibits the work of upcoming scholars of all kinds of topics. Each volume has a special issue attached to it that usually are edited by special guests. It is edited by three professors of the college. The managing editor is professor Laura E. West, assisted by editor Ted Atkinson (pictured to the left) who is an associate professor and associate editor Robert E. West. The journal accepts submissions from anybody that are reviewed for publication. The submissions must meet certain criteria for formatting. There is also a style sheet provided on the website to give people specific information on how to write their paper with respect to capitalization, punctuation, spacing, etc.

The Mississippi Quarterly is a heavily academic journal that is targeted towards people in the academic field. It appeals greatly to students on the Mississippi State campus or any students that are interested in Southern Studies. Students that study English or other literary applications are also likely to take interest in the Quarterly. College of Charleston, because of the present Southern Studies program, is an institution that likely houses many readers of The Mississippi Quarterly. Anyone can, regardless of whether or not they are a part of a Southern Studies program, subscribe to the Quarterly. Subscribers to the journal, while primarily Southern Studies Scholars, include any individual interested in research regarding Southern literature. The Quarterly can be purchased online for $30 a year. A yearly subscription provides 4 issues of the journal. It can be either in print or electronic.

The Quarterly has a strong emphasis on academic analysis of Southern Literature and has little interest in appealing to a popular audience. The journal does, however, frequently analyze pieces of popular literature that are related to Southern Studies. The study of these popular works likely attract an audience that has an interest in popular culture. This audience may discover an interest in the academic analysis of popular works. This is one way that the Quarterly appeals to an audience that is primarily interested in popular culture. Visually, the Mississippi Quarterly is very much an academic work. The reader will see very few pictures in the journal. It consists of in depth analysis with examples from and citations of the work in question. This format is visible when looking at excerpts from several different issues. The journal is almost entirely black and white. All of the visual aspects of the journal further suggest that it is targeted at a very scholarly audience that is interested in the analysis and research of literature, rather than entertainment.

This journal is unique when compared to magazines or journals that are related to Southern Studies. The history of the journal reveals that it was originally a broad, Social Sciences journal. It was titled, “The Social Sciences Bulletin.” It gradually changed into more of a humanities journal. In 1968, it adopted its current title. The Quarterly’s original broad focus and conversion to a literary culture analysis journal have had a positive effect on its credibility. Any group of writers with experience in a broad field that are able to specialize based on outstanding skills and interests will have an advantage over others. When compared to other Southern journals, The Mississippi Quarterly is uniquely equipped to provide analysis on Southern culture because of its specialization from a broader field.

The journal’s recent 2019 publication included analysis of and commentary on several important southern works. The first section in this issue featured an in depth, specialized analysis of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn. The article was titled, “The Roots of Huck Finn’s Melancholy: Sam Clemens, Mark Twain, and a World of Pain,” by Robert Paul Lamb. Another article in the issue is called, “Small-Town Literature, and the Uses of Queerness,” by Nathaniel T. Booth. As suggested by the title, it touches on the relationship between Southern literature and queer identities. The publication consists of 7 articles, including the ones mentioned, that analyze pieces of southern literature and how they relate to broader Southern culture.

Dr. Bernard Powers – African American and Slavery Studies

Dr. Bernard Powers is a departmental director and professor emeritus at the College of Charleston whose research focuses on African American history and culture and slavery’s role in American history.  

Dr. Powers began studying history at Northwestern University. During his time there, he developed a specialized interest in American history. With a pre-developed interest in African Studies, Powers’ interests in African American and slavery studies began to take shape after observing the late Dr. Sterling Stuckey. Stuckey was a distinguished professor emeritus of history at the University of California, Riverside. He specialized in American slavery, the arts and history, and Afro-American intellectual and cultural history. Dr. Powers graduated from Northwestern University with a M.A. and Ph.D. in American history. Powers’ research of slavery in America inherently brought about a strong connection to Southern Studies.

Throughout the majority of Charleston and general South Carolina history, the region was populated by a majority of African Americans. 40% of all slaves that were brought into America were imported via the Charleston harbor. African Americans, as a result, had an especially large impact on the cultural development of the region. This piqued Dr. Powers’ interests and drew him to the College of Charleston. He began teaching history at the college in 1992 and taught until 2018. In 2018, he founded and began directing the Center for the Study of Slavery in Charleston (CSSC). This program studies the influence and activity of African American slaves in the Charleston area and, more specifically, at the College of Charleston. CSSC is a part of a broader organization that studies the relationship between slaves and Universities. The organization is called the University Studying Slavery Consortium and it is a multi-institutional collaboration. Dr. Powers describes CSSC as a, “think tank,” that answers important questions about the role of both slaves and slaveholders in the running and construction of the College of Charleston.

Dr. Powers works often with projects independent of the College of Charleston. Powers is currently the president of the International African American Museum located on the Cooper River in Charleston. The museum has been in the works for over 20 years and is projected to open in 2022. It will be the premier African American museum in the Southeast. Dr. Powers has also done research on the African Methodist Church. AME was the first African American independent religious denomination in the country and its presence in America lies directly in Powers’ field of study.

 Powers also researches the modern sociopolitical aspects of the confederate monuments across the South and specifically in Charleston. He believes that the removal of the John C. Calhoun monument was a huge step in the right direction for the Charleston community. He says that, despite his thorough knowledge in the field, he never would’ve expected the monument to come down in his lifetime. Powers believes that this is one of the most fascinating and exciting things about his studies and says that, oftentimes, “you think you understand a situation, then something comes out of left field and surprises you.” He is now working to install monuments of important, positive African American historical figures where the confederates once stood.