I knew for a long time very vaguely that there were some connections between fried chicken and African Americans.
And it started by listening this product of the celebrity Key & Peele.

And he ( who grew up in Texas ) is singing a song including a word "deep fried chicken" ( from around 1:46~ )

And I found an interesting video

I think the African American in blue textile says ( I apologize if I picked his voice wrongly )

Around from 0:51

"F** I don't eat fried chicken food".

And I googled more, and I find an article.

But it seems he didn't give me the final conclusion why fried chickens are associated with African Americans.

Does anybody know?

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    In Europe there's no such thing of a stereotype so I guess it's a purely american thing ? This should be tagged united-states.
    – Bregalad
    Commented Jul 7, 2019 at 12:05
  • Of possible interest: Neflix seems to have an "Ugly Delicious" episode titled "Fried Chicken" that dives into this very topic. Commented Jul 7, 2019 at 17:17
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    I'm annoyed as **** by this stereotype, and the one about watermelon, too. Fried chicken and watermelon are among my favorite foods and I couldn't bring them to a church potluck because of the optics: I was the only white guy in an otherwise all-black congregation.
    – EvilSnack
    Commented Jun 29, 2020 at 17:20
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    Protected this question, mainly because we have an answer, and seeing it at the top of the list is very annoying
    – Ne Mo
    Commented Jun 17 at 18:56

3 Answers 3


Chicken is cheap animal food easily raised and gaining weight quickly and efficiently. Whether slaves or workers or general "Southerners", they can be fed economically with chicken. Whether doing it themselves or being provided food from master or employer. Plus, it tastes so good it is the yard stick for almost everything else; although "tastes like chicken" is likely another stereotype…

Chicken was arguably more popular in the South, as was slavery, and among poor people in general, and thus I conclude that the origin of 'negroes love chicken' was greatly enforced by Northern eyes, even if it cannot be the only source for that and that 'they' did not create the stereotype.

For black Americans, additional associations are evident. The nos- talgia evoked by a family's fried chicken recipe is balanced by the me- dia's insistence on perpetuating negative stereotypes of blacks as unscrupulous chicken thieves and rapacious consumers of fried chicken. If we consider the major meat groups in America as chicken, pork, and beef, chicken is generally considered to be the least expen- sive. Chickens are easier to raise on poor "dirt farms," making them an inexpensive source of high quality protein. Throughout history, African Americans have had more access to chickens than to other meat sources. Further, if one intended to steal an animal for its meat, a chicken would certainly be most available. During and after slavery, blacks had limited access to food. In order to feed their families, some African Americans stole chickens.

The image of the African American as a shameless chicken thief is sharpened by depictions of unkempt blacks devouring fried chicken, permeating American popular culture. In D. W. Griffith's classic depiction of the reconstruction era, Birth of a Nation, blacks elected to the state legislature sit in the chambers, eating chicken and casually tossing the bones across the aisles. African Americans are understandably disturbed by the persistent coupling of blacks with sloppy foods eaten by hand (e.g., fried chicken, ribs, corn on the cob, watermelon).
–– Gary Alan Fine & Patricia Turner: "Contemporary Legends and Claims of Corporate Malfeasance: Race, Fried Chicken, and the Marketplace", 50 DEPAUL L. REV. 635 (2001).

However, getting any closer might not lead that far on the timeline backwards, as the stereotype seems to be quite old:

The June 12, 1864, issue of the New York Herald contained the article "Not ‘All Quiet Along the Lines.'" The article indicated that rebel soldiers were wasting their ammunition and drummers and that "demoralized negroes" were engaged in coffee boiling and chicken roasting "or some other delightful epicurean occupation denied to the gallant soldiers who front the enemy."

So deeply embedded were these assumptions about African Americans and chicken that they were deemed an important point of reference for a Civil War reporter. The irony here is that while these unfortunate black soldiers were participating in the war to free themselves from enslavement, the condescending rhetoric of this article illustrates the quagmire that daily confronted them, as stereotypes of this nature were inescapable. These kinds of historical references certainly helped to fuel what we understand today to be the stereotypes that distort the perceived relationships that black people have to chicken. Although the exact origins of this stereotype are unknown, narratives from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries coupled with visual imagery and other ephemera of the twentieth century suggest the beginning of a perennial racial stereotype that continues to persist.

–– Psyche A Williams-Forson: "Building Houses out of Chicken Legs. Black Women, Food and Power", University of North Carolina Press: Chapel Hill, 2006.

Also –– Psyche Williams-Forson: "More than Just the “Big Piece of Chicken”: The Power of Race, Class, and Food in American Consciousness" in: Carole Counihan & Penny van Esterik: "Food and Culture. A Reader", Routledge: London, New York, 32013.

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    I understand. Thank you for teaching me the history in the slavery age.
    – user12387
    Commented Jul 7, 2019 at 10:43
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    Chicken was not all that cheap, historically. Before the advent of modern battery farming, it was something of a luxury food, thus Herbert Hoover's campaign promise of "a chicken for every pot". (Which antedates him by several centuries.) But chickens were something that could be kept by smallholders or sharecroppers, would produce eggs for a while, then one chicken could be killed and eaten immediately, without the need for preserving as with beef or pork.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Jul 7, 2019 at 17:08
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    @jamesqf Quite right. But even before the modern broiler and industrialised farming methods it was much cheaper in comparison, Hoover promising 'cheap meat', and exactly 'not beef'. That it still may have been out of reach monetarily for many is indeed testament eg to the effect of trophic level loss Do you think that needs inclusion here? Commented Jul 7, 2019 at 17:19
  • @LangLangC: I don't think it necessarily was cheaper than beef (or pork & mutton) in say the period 1850-1950, though of course I could be wrong. I tried to find some data on comparative prices during that period, but didn't have any luck.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Jul 8, 2019 at 5:50

I googled and found

Like most stereotypes, this is not rational or logical. Sometimes it is difficult for those of us who have not been victims of the stereotype to understand just how offensive it is.

Both sources mention "Birth of a Nation" - that is a powerful symbol of Southern racism that is it easy to underestimate if you are not deeply familiar with American culture. It is a symbol - it has emotional weight far out of proportion to its apparent impact.

I have friends who are educated, professional African Americans who will not eat fried chicken at all, just as a response to the stereotype. In my opinion, this is one of the blind spots of my privilege as a white person - I was unaware of the stereotype until very late in life. I was unprepared for how strongly it affected my friends. At least to me it is evidence that the consequences of racial prejudice and stereotypes are still powerful and harmful today.

Sorry - don't mean to preach, but I'm cautious about subjects like this where I can never fully understand the emotional impact.

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    Good answer and thank you. However, I am sorry really, that because you are not directly answering to my question, I can not choose yours. But I appreciate yours no matter what it is.
    – user12387
    Commented Jul 7, 2019 at 2:16
  • Is something a stereotype if many/most people have never heard of it? Certainly there's a bit of a stereotype about fried chicken being a Southern dish, though I grew up in the Northeast eating fried chicken most Sundays. And probably the person most associated with fried chicken, Col. Sanders of KFC, is pretty darn white...
    – jamesqf
    Commented Jul 7, 2019 at 4:55
  • @jamesqf If you'd have one stereotype about sth that nobody else shared it'd still be one. Stereotype means quick decision, avoiding thought, and individual data, deducing heuristically from (ad-hoc) statistics towards a single person or (constructing) sub-groups. not guaranteed to be right (in the sense of correct…, in fact, quite too often false, despite being spot on from time to time, thus intermittently re-enforcing the very stereotype) Overgeneralisation. It doesn't depend on numbers holding an unfounded or poorly founded belief. Commented Jul 7, 2019 at 13:21
  • @LangLangC: While that's true, it really doesn't seem relevant here. The question I ask is why some people - the " educated, professional African Americans" of this answer - think there is a negative stereotype about them and fried chicken, when most of the rest of the country apparently doesn't know about that supposed stereotype at all? (And why just FRIED chicken, and not roasted, barbecued, stir-fried, chicken soup...)
    – jamesqf
    Commented Jul 7, 2019 at 17:12

Relatively inexpensive, tasty food and supposed animalistic behavior

Usual racial stereotype of Black people is that they have low intelligence, are unable to control themselves and are primarily concerned with satisfying basic urges, here and now. In fact, Blacks were often portrayed as close to monkeys , or at least savage, primitive and "tribal" .

When put in this perspective, what kind of food would these stereotypical Blacks require ? Obviously, this won't be something sophisticated, expensive and taken in small quantities ( champagne and caviar) . Instead, it would have to be tasty, readily available and cheap. Our stereotypical Black person would need to devour large quantities of it to satisfy his hunger. Thus, we came to well-known stereotypes of watermelon and chicken.

Watermelons are easily explainable: they are large, grow in the South, do not require much labor (and Blacks are supposedly lazy unless forced to work by others) , cheap (they are mostly water) and tasty. However, chicken are not so straightforward. As we could see from this article and chart, chicken consumption overtook pork only in 1990's and beef only recently . Poultry is somewhat cheaper now compared to beef, but prices were much closer only 20 years ago. Arguably, chicken meat was always less expensive then other types of meat, but the spread was not so high as today. Therefore, price of chicken meat is important but not not sole deciding factor in creation of this stereotype. Beef as such is usually associated with steaks and barbecue, therefore implying some kind of family life and social status (friends, backyard, lawn etc...) . Pork not so much, but still pork chops do require time to prepare. However, our chicken in question is not cooked or roasted, it is fried, implying some fast-food restaurant did it and our stereotypical Black person didn't prepare it (lazy ! ) and probably bought it just for himself.

When you sum all this up, what you have is : Black person, usually penniless (do to low skills and poor work ethics) somehow acquires some money. Instead of spending it rationally, he goes on to satisfy his urges, orders large quantities of chicken and eats it without thinking about the future or anyone except himself . Thus, chicken consumption is now a part of broader stereotype and not something that exist independently .

  • Aggregate amounf consumption" is not 'price'. Argubly too modern, but clearly very different "20 years ago": nationalchickencouncil.org/about-the-industry/statistics/… Commented Jul 7, 2019 at 19:41
  • @LangLangC Of course it is not , I wanted to show that chicken consumption was much lower in the past. And thanks for the chart, I'm going to include it in my answer .
    – rs.29
    Commented Jul 8, 2019 at 7:10