The Majesty of VertaMae Smart-Grovesnor, pt. 1

LaToya R Jefferson-James
6 min readFeb 1, 2023

VertaMae Smart-Grovesnor claimed her Gullah heritage when others were running away from it. She fashioned herself a food anthropologist before Southern and African American Studies were widespread. She combined organic and traditional intellectualism, told great stories, produced documentaries, and fed us righteous food to boot!

Picture downloaded from Washington University Center for Humanities. An early copy of Vibration Cooking on the left and a Jet Magazine cover featuring VertaMae Smart-Grovesnor on the right.

Dear Reader, I want to thank you for stopping by. Now, I have to confess something: I don’t know where to start, where to go in the body of this blog post, and how to end it. So, if you want to take your leave, Reader, I understand. If you take a notion, stick around and sit with me for a spell.

And there is a perfectly good reason why I cannot start, stretch out, and end this essay: the woman who is the topic of my essay. There is a majesty to VertaMae Smart Grovesnor. America saw her for years on PBS as a television chef. I came to her through a picture in the Norton Anthology of African American Literature v.2, 3rd edition. There was a picture of her with other Black women writers, and the picture read, “Toni Morrison and Her Writing Circle.”

Now, I downloaded this from somebody’s Pinterest account. But this picture is included in the anthology. I looked at that picture for a full five minutes. It contained all of the women writers whose work I have come to love, know, and teach. However, there was one woman writer, standing in a patterned jacket to the left, who I had never heard of and could not say that I had read any. I read the picture’s of her writing. Her name was included in the caption and I looked for her in the anthology, but she was not there. Well, anybody who knows Morrison knows that she did not pal around with light-weights. This woman, VertaMae Smart-Grovesnor, according to the caption, must have been a dynamic storyteller and writer. I looked her up and saw this beautiful picture.

I cannot remember what website contained this picture, but I remember staring it for a while. It’s beautiful. I discovered that this Black woman of Geechee/Gullah roots had a show on PBS for decades and I never saw it or heard of her. Then, there were pictures of Julie Dash, the…

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LaToya R Jefferson-James

LaToya Jefferson-James has a Ph.D. in literature. Welcome! The professor is in! Come in and stay a spell. Let’s discuss and learn from one another.