Stories from our Alumni magazine
Reposted from @uvalawspeccoll In honor of Juneteenth, we celebrate Caesar Young (c. 1854-1935), a formerly enslaved man and later renowned barbecue chef in the Charlottesville area. Young was enslaved by the Duke family at their plantation, Sunnyside, located where UVA’s Business, Judge Advocates General, and @uvalaw now stand. Following emancipation, Young continued to work at Sunnyside as a gardener and barbecue pit master.
The Duke family hosted numerous summer barbecues at Sunnyside from the end of the Civil War to 1930. Black chefs like Young provided the labor, skill, and artistry to make these events possible.
Work began at sunrise when the chefs awoke to prepare the barbecue fire. They strung lambs, pigs, and sheep on long wooden poles that would lay over a shallow pit, allowing hours for coals to cook the meat. They also prepared Brunswick stew with small game, namely squirrels, as well as alcoholic drinks, like mint juleps and claret punch.
As guests arrived and mingled, the chefs continuously basted the meat with vinegar, salt, and pepper. Black musicians often provided the entertainment. In the early afternoon, the multiple course meal began and went on for hours. Sunnyside barbecues were frequently cited as memorable successes, a testament to the organizational and culinary skill of chefs like Caesar Young. Swipe to explore images from the University’s collections of these summer barbecues.
Young’s story is a local example of the legacy of Indigenous, African, and African American foodways on the American barbecue tradition, the city of Charlottesville, and @uva. To find out more, visit our site landscape.law.virginia.edu. Link in bio.
Image 1: Earliest known photograph of a barbecue at Sunnyside, c. 1868. Of the chefs pictured in the foreground, we know the names of four of the six. On the left: Bob Fortune stands just in front of Willis Fortune. On the right: Mandy Carter (facing the camera) and Juba Carter, to the immediate right of her. The Carter’s were formerly enslaved by the Garth family of Birdwood. Courtesy @rareuva.
Image 2: Barbecue at Sunnyside, early 20th century. Law Archives.
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