Once upon a time there lived an African American woman named Malinda Russell who was born in Washington County, Tennessee and raised in Greene County in the year 1812.
Malinda Russell is the 1st known African American woman to publish a cookbook. Her cookbook is titled A Domestic Cook Book: Containing a Careful Selection of Useful Receipts for the Kitchen.
The beginnings of her life started free, although she was born in the time of slavery. By law, because her formerly enslaved grandmother was emancipated, that meant that her mother would be born free and so would she. This is known as the womb law – if the mother is free, children would be free. If the mother was enslaved, children would also be enslaved. The father, free or enslaved, had no bearing on this law.
At the age of 19, Malinda Russell had her sights set on going to Liberia, Africa, however, on the way there with a company of others, she was robbed by someone in that group. She was left with no choice but to remain in Virginia.
It is there where she began working and traveling with other ladies as a nurse and cook. She also learned much about cooking from an enslaved lady named Fanny Steward.
Soon, she met a man named Anderson Vaughn, and they got married. Her husband only lived for four years into their marriage before he passed away. At that time, she reverted back to her maiden name, and she and her crippled son were on their own.
Malinda left Virginia and moved back to her home state of Tennessee where she worked a boarding school and also a pastry shop for six years. She saved much money for her and her son, but troubles came again when she was robbed.
This time,in the year of 1864, a gang of white bandits robbed her of everything she owned. It was a horrible time for her, and she had to escape Tennessee and head for Paw Paw, Michigan where she lived in peace there, awaiting her return to Tennessee to try and recover her property.
In 1866, she wrote her cookbook A Domestic Cook Book in order to earn money for herself and her son to return home, and she also wanted to share great cooking with everyone else.
Unfortunately, this is where history loses sight of Malinda Roberts and her journeys with her cook book and son. We don’t know what came of her destination back to Tennessee, but she did leave her cook book so that we all knew her history – the history you just read which is in her book, in her own words. There is no death date recorded.
Source: The Domestic Cook Book, A domestic cook book : containing a careful selection of useful receiptsfor the kitchen by Malinda Russell, an experienced cook, Paw Paw,Michigan, 1866 : a facsimile of the first known cookbook by an AfricanAmerican.Russell, Malinda.Ann Arbor, Mich. : William L. Clements Library, c2007.https://hdl.handle.net/2027/mdp.39015073926647