Today, in celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. week, we turn the spotlight to one of the unsung heroes (or heroines, rather) of the Civil Rights Movement: Georgia Gilmore.
Georgia (whom we have written about before) lived and worked in Montgomery, Alabama, and was a true servant to the cause of the movement. Georgia was a big lady with a big personality—frankly put, she didn’t take any bull from anybody. She worked as a midwife, as well as a cook at the National Lunch Company. After Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to leave her seat on a bus in December of 1955, a group of black ministers and community leaders formed the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA)—and initiated the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Led by Martin Luther King, Jr., the Association often held secret meetings around the city. As soon as Georgia heard of Rosa Parks’ arrest on the radio, she joined the MIA, determined to aid the effort in any way she could.
Outspoken and feisty, Georgia let her disapproval of the discriminatory bus drivers be known—an action that got her fired from her job at the cafeteria. When that happened, Dr. King and other leaders helped her set up a restaurant in her home kitchen. Georgia was well-known around town for her fried chicken, pork chops, and stuffed bell peppers and often served these and other dishes to Dr. King and fellow supporters of the boycott. She even hosted secret MIA meetings there in her kitchen.
Georgia’s love (and talent) for cooking and her passion for equality and change led her to start a club with a few of her friends, named “The Club from Nowhere.” The ladies in the club, most of them maids and cooks, sold homemade pies and cakes (and even Georgia’s chicken dinners) to supporters of the movement in order to raise money for the boycott. The Club from Nowhere often set up shop in beauty parlors, Laundromats, and on street corners in downtown Montgomery. Both black and white supporters of the boycott were able to contribute anonymously. The Club from Nowhere used the money they collected to buy gas and station wagons, which were used to transport people to and from work during the boycott. Georgia always said that the money came “from nowhere.”
Although she was not recognized as a leader of the Civil Rights Movement, Georgia Gilmore certainly fueled the movement with her commitment and fundraising efforts. She was a real woman with a strong voice, and she did what she needed to do to make change happen in her community and beyond.
And so as a tribute, we baked a pound cake this week for Georgia and all of the other real women who made a difference by doing what they could, one baked good at a time.
COLD OVEN POUND CAKE
3 sticks butter
3 cups sugar
6 eggs, room temperature
3 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
Butter and flour a 10-inch Bundt pan and set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until fluffy. Add in the eggs one at a time, beating well after every addition. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the dry ingredients into the creamed butter and mix until just combined. Pour in the milk and vanilla with the paddle going and mix until just combined. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the milk completely. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly.
Place the pan in a cold oven and set oven to 225 degrees. Set a timer for 20 minutes and let bake. Increase temperature to 300 degrees and bake for another 20 minutes. Increase oven temperature again to 325 degrees and bake for 20 more minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Remove from oven and let cake sit in pan for 10 minutes. Unmold and let cool on a wire rack.
*Baking a pound cake in a cold oven works for a specific reason: Preheating an oven gives cakes the rush of hot air needed to rise, but pound cakes are usually so dense that they don’t rise very much anyway. Therefore, preheating the oven isn’t necessary.
We topped our pound cake with a caramel sauce (recipe below), but this cake would also be delicious topped with powdered sugar or a simple lemon glaze.
Yield 2 cups
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons Maldon sea salt flakes
Combine the water and sugar in a heavy bottom sauce pan and place over high heat. Cook on high, without stirring, until the syrup turns medium amber. Turn the heat down and stir in the salt and the heavy cream; the syrup will bubble up a lot, so be careful. Stir to combine. Let cool and drizzle over the cake once the cake has been cooled.
Find out more about Georgia and The Club from Nowhere in this beautiful narrative from The Kitchen Sisters and NPR.