Black History in Modern Meals

In Black History, Culture by Natalie Baltimore

Meal: Jerk Chicken

Many modern meals in the Americas have been historically rooted and altered by African slaves. An example of one meal is Jamaican Jerk Chicken. There are many different theories as to the meal’s origins, therefore the similarities between the various accounts are as follows. 


Although nowadays used with jerk chicken seasoning, the “jerk method” was developed by the indigenous Taínos of Jamaica prior to colonisation. The “jerk method” involves the drying of the meat being used (chicken, pork, or beef) by cooking the meat over wood fire as a way to preserve it over a longer course of time. Escaped African slaves from the 1600s Spanish colony called the Maroons formed heterogeneous societies with the indigenous Taínos and together used available spices to make the jerk chicken seasoning. The meal was used to physically fuel the joint fight against the British. Eventually, the British adopted jerk chicken and made alterations to the spices used and style of cooking the meat. The 1930s saw a resurgence of the meal in its original form as a way to reestablish its origins and authenticity. Jerk Chicken is now integral to Jamaican national identity, but also is a symbol of the rejection of colonial oppression.

Due to the Jamaican diaspora, jerk chicken now has deep roots in both the US and the UK.