343 – African American Contributions in Distillation History with Erin Gilliam, Associate Professor at Kentucky State University

The contributions of African Americans in the distilling industry has largely gone unnoticed and unrecognized for a long period of time. The story of Uncle Nearest put mainstream media attention and a spotlight on the issue. But there is one person who spends her time on capturing stories and diving into distillery archives to discover more African American influence on whiskey. Erin Wiggins Gilliam is an Associate Professor Of History at Kentucky State University and she sits down with me to talk about some of her findings. She gives an amazing amount of insight into record keeping that documented how slaves that knew how to distill were quite valuable. Erin also spends her time interviewing older generations of people who worked at distilleries in Kentucky and nearby states to document the culture and the roles African Americans held at distilleries through recent periods of time. She is always on the hunt for the next great story so if you have a relative or a family connection, reach out to Erin so she can continue her quest.

Show Notes:

  • Above the Char with Fred Minnick (@fredminnick) talks about family members buying bottles.
  • How do you keep on losing so many AirPods?
  • What led you into academia?
  • What got you into spirits?
  • Was Buffalo Trace the first distillery to let you come see their archives?
  • Can you talk about some of your findings about African American influence at Buffalo Trace?
  • Can you share one of your stories interviewing from interviewing and documenting people?
  • What was one awful story that really sticks out?
  • How far back can you go with oral history?
  • How did enslaved Africans bring the skill of farming and barreling?
  • Describe the feeling you get when you discover a document?
  • What’s the end goal when you gather all the information you can?
  • What is an example of something you read of African American history at a distillery?
  • Is there a certain individual that had a very interesting story?
  • Since you’re a tequila person is there any African American involvement you’ve discovered with tequila?
  • @dr_eringil @_kbbg_
  • Support this podcast on Patreon

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