Geneva Banks

Geneva Banks came to Chicago from rural Georgia in 1936, when she was ten. She didn’t want to be here at first. Life had been hard in the south, but she was used to it.

Her father owned a small farm outside of Greenville, and the family raised crops and some hogs. “You had to eat the worst part of the hog,” she says, “because the best part, the ham and the pork chops, you had to sell to the white man. That’s why black people eat pig feet and pig ears. Have you ever heard of chitlins? That’s the part that all the BM is in, so naturally you’re not gonna sell this to a white person—you’re really supposed to throw it away, but you got to eat what you can.” She and her siblings often went barefoot because her family couldn’t afford shoes.

But there were things she liked about country life. “We had peach trees all around, pear trees, pecan trees. We could go in the field and get a watermelon and bust it open and eat the heart out. When I got to Chicago, I didn’t have as much to eat—because you gotta go buy everything, and my mom didn’t have too much money.”