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professional cook, singer, and entrepreneur, was born Ernestine Caroline Williams in Nicodemus, Kansas, the seventh of thirteen children of Charles and Elizabeth Williams. The members of the Williams family were descendants of Tom Johnson, a former slave of Vice President Richard M. Johnson of Georgetown, Kentucky. In 1877 the Johnson family migrated and settled in the historic all–African American town of Nicodemus. The tradition of cooks in the Johnson and Williams families dates back to days of slave kitchens, when Vice President Johnson hosted a large barbecue for the French general the Marquis de Lafayette in 1824. His slaves prepared over fifteen hundred pounds of barbecue meat for the event.

Ernestine grew up assisting her mother in the kitchen and learned to cook pies in a wood burning stove Her favorite pie to make as well as to eat was lemon meringue The recipe ...