This article by Jim Shahin came out while our internet was down, so I’m very late in posting it:
You should read the article. It focuses on the role of black-owned barbecue places and the role they played in the Civil Rights Movement, and discusses their future and the lack of respect that they get in most discussions of barbecue. I remember someone bringing us barbecue when I was stuffing envelopes in the SCLC offices in Birmingham during high school. The article mentions the activism of Brenda’s in Montgomery, Alabama, and I can attest that I wound up there numerous times with local leaders during the decades of my voting rights work — years after the heroic period of the Movement. Lannie’s was a regular stop for me when I was in Selma. And there was Ralph’s Fast Foods in Cleveland, Mississippi, which also had very good tamales, along with many other places and scores of meat-and-threes. Note: when you are working and wearing a suit, you tend to be wary of barbecue places, especially rib places.
I’m not an expert on the racial disparities in barbecue, as I am heavily focused on the product and not the producer — certainly not her or his race. When I think of good barbecue, places like Grady’s, Archibald’s, Dreamland, etc., come immediately to mind, along with Wilber’s, Sykes’s, Miss Myra’s, and Ollie’s of Blessed Memory. It may be that the “new generation” barbecue places are dominated by white people who have enough money to get in-town locations and hire press agents and spend their time away from the store in barbecue contests. I suppose I could start paying attention as I travel the North Carolina Barbecue Trail or as I get through the South Caroli – but look! Stacked wood and smoke coming from the chimney!