Pies from Nowhere: How Georgia Gilmore Sustained the Montgomery Bus Boycott

Today’s book honoring Black History Month is a biography of a woman who utilized her abilities as a gifted cook to support the Montgomery bus boycott. Georgia Gilmore was a cook at the National Lunch Company in Montgomery, where whites sat in a separate section from blacks… while eating the food that a black woman had cooked. (Oh, the rationale of bigoted idiots: “You can’t sit by me because you disgust me, but I’ll put the food in my mouth that you’ve made.” I’m sorry, what?!) When the bus boycott began, Georgia joined with other women to cook and serve food at meetings held in local churches. They also sold meals, the profits of which they donated to help fund the boycott. These women had to keep their efforts a secret because they knew they’d lose their jobs if their activities became known. When people asked where Georgia got the money she put in the collection plate at strategy meetings, she’d say it came from nowhere, and thus her group of cooks became known as the Club from Nowhere. Eventually Georgia’s employers found out about her support for the boycott, and they fired her. Her friend, Martin Luther King, Jr., who relished her food as did a great many others, said, “All these years you’ve worked for somebody else. Now it’s time you worked for yourself.” He helped her fix up her kitchen, and she opened her home to customers hungry for her famous cooking. King often ate there, sometimes bringing guests with him — oh, you know, like Robert Kennedy and President Johnson. Isn’t that amazing? Even President Kennedy requested takeout from Georgia’s kitchen to be brought on board Air Force One. Dee Romito’s writing is conversational, as though she is talking to a friend over a piece of Georgia’s pie. Laura Freeman’s illustrations are bold and warm, with red, blue, and yellow featured prominently. Like the Paul Robeson book I reviewed earlier this week, Pies from Nowhere shows how each of us has a gift that can be used to help others. Martin Luther King, Jr., may have held crowds of thousands across the country rapt with his oratory skills, but Georgia Gilmore filled the hearts and bellies of the people she knew in Montgomery, and her food helped to fuel a movement that would change history. Use this book to cook up a cross-curricular unit in language arts and art/graphic design that could perhaps be expanded to a school community project involving the creation of a cookbook containing students’ family recipes and/or a bake sale (Georgia’s pound cake recipe is on the back inside cover, by the way) to raise money for a local cause.

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