Early field studies in human nutrition documented the eating habits of African Americans living in a variety of circumstances. We compare the results of these investigations. Our analysis shows systematic differences along a continuum reaching from remote, rural communities in the South toward increasingly metropolitan locations. On the latter end of the continuum, we find diets richer in protein, composed of a wider variety of foods and containing fewer of what we now call "soul foods." Greater market involvement and access to low cost alternatives to more traditional foods help explain these developments.