A Seat at the table with Evelyn J. Frazier
Evelyn J. Frazier was the embodiment of Atlanta’s food scene. She defied oppression, focusing instead on progress and being results driven. In 1936, Evelyn Jones and her sister opened Evelyn Jones Cafe at 880 West Hunter St. (now Martin Luther King Jr. Drive). In the mid ‘40s, she and her husband, Luther Frazier, expanded it and renamed it Frazier’s Cafe Society. Evelyn J. Frazier’s restaurant was one of the few restaurants in the city willing to challenge the social taboo of blacks and whites dining together under a single roof.
The dedication she exhibited in every intentional action answers the questions: What does it mean to cook? What does it mean to serve everyone? Evelyn Frazier didn’t just provide a space in her restaurants for conversations about revolution, her restaurant acted as the revolution. The menu provided a cuisine that was so forward thinking for its time that you can still find these dishes in restaurants today. Evelyn’s insistence that “her people” have the same right to eat in the type of establishments as their white counterparts was the revolution. White tablecloth service, distinct dining rooms and eloquent execution was the norm for Frazier’s Cafe Society. The very nature of Frazier’s life was reflected in how she served her guests. Color lines were blurred. The conversation centered on how one could be of service.
With a 40-acre farm, Evelyn J. Frazier grew all the ingredients she needed to provide for her restaurant and to serve the larger community with fresh local produce and meat. Frazier’s Cafe Society operated as a living example of food sovereignty. This was done as an act of resistance, a defiant and self-governing action of sustainability. She was able to keep her prices affordable for the clientele she served while remaining autonomous in her refusal to cooperate with a system of oppression.
Evelyn Frazier carried this efficacious confidence in every crusade that became her focus.The forefront of her work was equality not only for African Americans, but also for women of color. Frazier founded as many organizations for women as there are items on her menu. She was determined to give women a seat at the table.
Frazier’s Cafe Society closed in 1981 but her legacy can be experienced by enjoying her signature Icebox Lemon pie recipe or by visiting one or both iconic restaurants that also served the Civil Rights Movement and are still open today – Busy Bee’s Cafe and Paschal’s. For more information about Evelyn J. Frazier you can visit the archives at Auburn Avenue Research Library.
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