Sylvia Woods

Sylvia Woods

Illustrated by Felicia Liang

Illustrated by Felicia Liang

Known as the "Queen of Soul Food", Sylvia Woods opened a popular restaurant in Harlem - just around the corner from the Apollo Theater. The restaurant, called Sylvia's was a gathering place for prominent African Americans, civil rights activists, celebrities, politicians, and hungry people of all ages and races. Items on the menu still include classic southern favorites like chicken and waffles, collard greens and baskets of warm corn bread. 

Sylvia Woods was born in Hemingway, South Carolina by the name of Sylvia Pressley. Her parents were farmers and she grew up in the fields picking beans under the sun. When work became scarce, her and her mother moved to New York where she would eventually marry her childhood sweetheart, Herbert Deward Woods. 

Having grown up in the Jim Crow era, Woods first stepped foot inside a restaurant when she worked as a waitress at Johnson's Luncheonette in Harlem. With help from her mother, Woods bought the luncheonette with her husband and renamed it Sylvia's. It opened in 1962 and quickly became a Harlem staple. Business picked up after Gael Greene, a New York magazine restaurant critic wrote a glowing review on her ribs and grits marking it as an institution.

"And the ribs are the why of this exercise. They are moist and sassy. First comes the taste of sweet pork. Then the after-whammy of hot. Sometimes hot...sometimes, hotter." - Gael Greene New York Magazine, 1979

Over time, the restaurant grew to accommodate more than 250 seats with Sylvia working on day to day operations until she was 80 years old. In her last years, she developed Alzheimer's disease and passed away in 2012. Today, you can still dine at Sylvia's in Harlem where her entrepreneurial spirit lives on.


Feeding America is the nationwide network of 200 food banks that leads the fight against hunger in the United States, providing food to more than 46 million people through 60,000 food pantries and meal programs.

Feeding America also supports programs that improve food security among the people we serve; educates the public about the problem of hunger; and advocates for legislation that protects people from going hungry. Individuals, charities, businesses and government all have a role in ending hunger.

To learn more about Feeding America, click here to go to their website and please consider a small donation of $5 or more to feed those in need across the country.

Augusta Savage

Augusta Savage

Barack Obama

Barack Obama