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African Americans were not allowed to join the Union army until 1862. Working under discriminatory pay, Ypsilanti African Americans showed brave support for the Union in the “102 Colored Troops.” The Ypsilanti soldiers that passed away in the war were buried in the Highland Cemetery, which was dedicated just a year before the war ended on July 14, 1864. A statue of a Civil War Soldier marks the burial ground for these soldiers. The burial arrangements for these fallen troops is important because soldiers from the “102 Colored Troops” were buried alongside all other soldiers, regardless of race, to formally honor their shared service and sacrifice.
During the Civil War many African Americans in the southern and central United States found themselves displaced from their homes, persisting in the face of tremendous upheaval and challenge. One such story is that of Malinda Russell. She had lived as a free woman during the war and then in reaction to political unrest, she began to make her way to Liberia, a republic in west Africa populated by freed African American slaves. Robbed early on in her journey to sail to Liberia, Russell instead chose to settle in Lynchburg, Virginia. She worked as a cook and later had a wash-house. After the death of her husband she opened a pastry shop in Tennessee and “…by hard labor and economy, saved a considerable sum of money for the support of myself and son.” Russell was again robbed amidst the unrest of the Civil War. In 1864, she chose to head North in search of more stability and economic opportunity.
Settling in Paw Paw, Michigan, she wrote a cook book to earn money to return to Tennessee. Russell’s book A Domestic Cook Book: Containing a Careful Selection of Useful Receipts for the Kitchen is the first recorded African American cookbook in the United States. Her recipes feature a mixture of styles from her experience as a cook in Virginia and pastry chef in Tennessee with “a few southern touches (Longone).” We can try her Beef Soup and Jumbles Cookies for ourselves.
This recipe will take a long time to make, and is good for a cold day. Russell’s recipes were very short. Directions have been added for clarity, and measurements have been standardized to serve four. Beef Shank bone [1 lb] Potatoes  Onions  Cabbage [1/3 head] Salt [to taste] Pepper [to taste] Parsley [1/8 cup] Rosemary [1 tsp] 1 egg 3 tablespoons flour Take the shank bone, boil until tender. [Boil for about 1 1⁄2-2 hours. Skim foam off every so often. Add a little water now and then to keep bones covered.] Chop fine the potatoes, onions, and cabbage, and boil in water until done; season with salt, pepper, parsley, rosemary, or sweet Margery [marjoram]. Rub the yolk of one egg into the three tablespoons flour, rubbed into rolls and dropped into the soup to boil.
Jumbles were cake-like cookies popular in the 18th Century. The original recipe is only one sentence long, and has been adapted below. The adapted recipe is from http://zesterdaily.com/. Yields about 4 dozen cookies. ORIGINAL RECIPE: One lb. flour, 3/4 lb. sugar, one half lb. butter, five eggs, mace, rose water, and caraway, to your taste ADAPTED RECIPE: 3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour 3 teaspoons mace 2 tablespoons caraway seeds 8 ounces salted butter (2 sticks, at room temperature) 5 eggs (small- or medium-sized) 4 tablespoons rosewater 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar 1. Preheat the oven to 375°F and line your baking sheets with parchment paper. 2. In a small bowl, combine the flour, mace and caraway seeds. 3. In a large bowl, cream the sugar and butter together. 4. With an electric mixer on low speed, beat in eggs to the butter and sugar mixture. Add the flour mixture and mix until combined. 5. Add the rosewater and mix until combined. 6. Using a tablespoon measure, spoon tablespoon-full size drops of the batter on your baking sheets, about 2 inches apart. 7. Bake for about 15 minutes, just until the edges turn golden. 8. Cool the cookies for two minutes on wire racks. 9. Serve, and store the remainder quickly in a sealed container or bag.
Sources: Russell, Malinda. A Domestic Cook Book: Containing a Careful Selection of Useful Receipts for the Kitchen. Paw Paw, MI: True Northerner, 1866.
(Highland Cemetery photo from https://www.findagrave.com/cemetery/706/highland-cemetery)