The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture has acquired the Ebony Test Kitchen.
The Ebony Test Kitchen was built in 1972 as a prominent feature of the Johnson Publishing Company’s building in Chicago. The test kitchen is where recipes were tested and prepared before they were published in Ebony magazine for home cooks around the country.
The 26-by-13-foot iconic kitchen is made up of two separate but connected spaces including a sitting area, all-electric appliances, a wine rack, and display and storage cabinets. Known in the style of Afrocentric modernism, the kitchen includes orange, purple, and avocado green wallpaper, brightly colored cabinets, and what in the 1970s were considered the height of modern amenities and appliances such as stovetop grills, a trash compactor and a refrigerator with an ice and water dispenser.
“The Ebony Test Kitchen is a living, breathing testament to the power of Black excellence and innovation in the culinary world,” said Kevin Young, the Andrew W. Mellon Director of the museum. “The kitchen was a place where recipes were reimagined, flavors were explored, and stories were shared—a place that celebrates Black history and culture in a way that was not only inspiring but delicious.”
There are no immediate plans to display the kitchen in the museum. However, it will be part of an initiative highlighting foodways’ integral role in Black culture during the modern era through digitization.