Slaveholders knew little about nutrition and vitamins, or about the human body's need for them. Dr. John H. Wilson of Georgia published an essay in 1859 on feeding blacks. Those who followed his advice had healthier workers. "Wilson divided all foods into two categories: nitrogenized, or muscle producing, and non-nitrogenized, heat producing," (Stampp 283). He concluded that fatty foods produced heat, and were therefore more appropriate for the field hands. Vegetables were for muscle building, and figs were an appropriate fruit because they are rich in nutrients.
Corn, abounding as it does in oily matter, is also a heat producing agent, acting precisely like fat meat; and in addition to this its other elements render it a valuable muscle-producing food. How fortunate that pork and corn, the most valuable of all articles of diet for negroes, may be so readily produced throughout the whole region where slaves are worked! (Stampp 283)
Wilson contradicts himself by stating that although these aliments were good enough for the slaves, they were not worthy of the white masters. Negroes and whites' bodies function differently, so what was good for one was harmful to the other. "[They] are very different in their habits and constitutions, and that while fat meat is the life of the negro...it is a prolific source of disease and death among the whites," Wilson warned masters.
Discuss: A balanced meal today consists of several daily servings from each of the food groups. * 6-11 servings of breads and cereals * 2-3 servings of fruits * 3-5 servings of vegetables * 2-3 servings of proteins * 2-3 servings of dairy products * Fats used sparingly
How did Dr. Wilson's theory on nutrition differ from today's? Was he correct in his assumptions? By our standards, did slaves eat balanced meals? What effects did their lack of nourishment have on them?