Mrs. Jane E. Elliott was the first person to establish a cafeteria system at a Black college, and reportedly the first to do so in the Deep South. Beyond her historic contribution, Mrs. Elliott is the great-aunt of our own Tom Joyner and her memory lives on at Tennessee State University.

In 1924, Elliott established the program at the former Tennessee A & I College after joining the staff as a cafeteria consultant two years prior. She stressed the importance of proper nutrition for students and garnered national attention for implementing the system. Other schools began seeking out Elliott’s food service expertise for their own cafeteria programs, adding to a legacy solely centered on proper food service and management.

Beyond the cafeteria, Elliott served as a mentor for students and also helped potential students gain access to the college. Education was just as important as food service to Elliott. Elliott raised Tom’s aunt at the college, providing a strong foundation for her loved ones early on that still stands firm today.

Tennessee State University dedicated the Jane E. Elliott building to her memory in 1996.


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