Avoiding meat is also a core principle of the Nation of Islam, whose founders believed that pork was at the heart of the slave diet, and preached vegetarianism as the most healthful diet for African-Americans.
Many people who give up eating animal products do it for their health, or for animal welfare. The same is true for the new veganism among African-Americans, but there is an added layer of another kind of politics.
“It’s not just about I want to eat well so I can live long and be skinny,” said Jenné Claiborne, a personal chef and cooking teacher who recently moved to Los Angeles from New York. Her first cookbook, “Sweet Potato Soul,” is due out in February. “For a lot of black people, it’s also the social justice and food access. The food we have been eating for decades and decades and has been killing us.”
Ms. Claiborne, 30, is part of a new generation of vegan cooks who are transforming traditional soul food dishes, digging deeper into the West African roots of Southern cooking and infusing new recipes with the tastes of the Caribbean.
As a result, ideas about the dull vegan stews and stir-fries that were standard-bearers among the early generations of black vegan cooks are changing — albeit slowly.