Slave codes in the South forbade enslaved people from owning hogs or cattle but allowed them chickens, as those animals were considered too insignificant to ban. That, coupled with the fact that the bird was tasty, made it a favorite for slaves — as well as the plantation masters for whom they cooked.
But unfortunately, eating fried chicken became associated with ugly racial stereotypes. In the 19th century one writer noted, that "were the negro to be cut off from chickens he would probably pine and die." A scene in the 1915 racist film "Birth of a Nation" showed the "dangers" of having black elected officials by portraying them acting rowdy and greedily eating fried chicken.
However, fried chicken also provided a way of improving one's lot. During and after the Civil War, African-American women in Gordonsville, Virginia often sold fried chicken and other foods to passengers on trains as a way of earning money. In fact Gordonsville became known as the "Fried Chicken Capital of the World."
Jim Crow laws in the South prevented African-Americans from eating in most restaurants before the 1960s. So they often carried fried chicken in a shoeboxes lined with waxed paper when traveling. Fried chicken didn't need refrigeration so it was good to carry on a long trip whether by train or car.