What’s the historical significance of the Reconciliation Dinner?
In spring 1865, a freed slave and famed Charleston chef, Nat Fuller, hosted a Reconciliation dinner at his restaurant, the Bachelor’s Retreat. He invited Charleston’s elite, both black and white, to sit down together in peace, and served an elaborate dinner that celebrated the local environment. The spirit embodied in that historic dinner helped invigorate the desire for social justice in post-Civil War America during a unique culinary experience that still calls to us to gather around a dinner table today.
In 2015, Kevin Mitchell, an instructor of the Culinary Institute of Charleston, gathered a consortium of local culinary and social justice groups and recreated the Nat Fuller dinner, replicating both the authentic low country menu and the spirit of peace among key stakeholders and leaders around the table.
The inaugural Shreveport Reconciliation dinner in 2016 followed this model, substituting our local foods for the feast.
We know that the breaking of bread together is a pathway to peace. We hope this event provided the opportunity to highlight the great progress in racial reconciliation, as well as where societal divides and challenges still remain, and the seeds for hope and future work together ahead.
Who hosted and sponsored this event?
Under the coordination of Slow Food North Louisiana, the 2016 event brought together local individuals and organizations committed to these dual issues of food justice and social justice. Sponsors included: CHRISTUS Health Shreveport-Bossier, the Committee of 100, The Community Foundation of North Louisiana, Belden & Pamela Daniels, Griggs Enterprise, Inc. • McDonald’s, G. Carlton Golden & Rachel Golden, NAACP-LA — Shreveport Branch, Whole Foods Market, and a shared sponsorship between The Times and Praise Temple Full Gospel Baptist Cathedral, plus in-kind sponsors Great Raft Brewing, Mahaffey Farms, Marilynn’s Place, Newt Lynn, Petroleum Club of Shreveport, Rhino Coffee, Slow Food North Louisiana, and Thrifty Liquor. We are grateful for the support of many in Shreveport who are deeply invested in acknowledging and furthering our shared culinary history and social history.
The 2018 dinner will be held at Centenary College of Louisiana. Current sponsors include CHRISTUS Health Shreveport-Bossier, The Community Foundation of North Louisiana, and G. Carlton Golden and Rachel Golden. For information about sponsoring the 2018 Reconciliation Dinner, please contact Chris Ciocchetti at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What was on the menu?
The 2016 menu featured local, seasonal foods of Northwest Louisiana and can be found here. Stay tuned for news about the 2018 chefs and menu!
I’m passionate about this issue. How can I participate?
In a spirit of thankfulness for those who work for racial reconciliation and social justice in our diverse community, nominations for participants to attend the 2018 Reconciliation Dinner will open on Thanksgiving Day – Thursday, November 23, 2017 – and remain active until January 5, 2018. While our community is blessed with many individuals who would contribute to and benefit from the conversation at the Reconciliation Dinner, space is limited to approximately 100 participants each year to ensure a productive conversation. The Steering Committee is actively seeking nominations from across the Shreveport community to ensure that participants at each dinner represent the rich diversity present in our city.
Where can I learn more?
To learn more about the historic Nat Fuller Reconciliation dinner of 1865 and its re-enactment last year, see “Original Dinner” or follow these links:
- “Nat Fuller’s Feast” by David S. Shields at his Common-Place online journal of early American life
- Southern Foodways Alliance’s Gravy podcast (episode 17)
- Slow Food magazine (in the Spring 2015 issue available at the linked site)