NAACP Mourns the Loss of Restaurateur Sylvia Woods

Woods' internationally-known restaurant was a landmark within the Harlem community

(Baltimore, MD) – The NAACP mourns the loss of legendary restaurateur Sylvia Woods, 86, known internationally as the “Queen of Soul Food”.

Woods' world-renowned Harlem establishment, Sylvia's, has drawn celebrities, politicians, tourists and locals alike to enjoy its famed soul food for more than 50 years.

“Sylvia’s Restaurant is a cornerstone of the African American community in Harlem,” said Benjamin Todd Jealous, NAACP President and CEO. “For five decades, the establishment has served as a place to mediate, collaborate and celebrate our struggle for equal rights.”

Woods peacefully transitioned at her home on Thursday afternoon after a years-long battle with Alzheimer's Disease, according to a statement released by her family. Her death came hours before she was to receive an award from New York's Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg commemorating the 50th anniversary of Sylvia’s Restaurant.

“Sylvia Woods a phenomenal woman and entrepreneur extraordinary,” said New York State Conference President Hazel N. Dukes. “She will certainly be missed by our community.”

In addition to her restaurant, Woods maintained a culinary legacy that included Sylvia's Catering Corp., banquet hall facilities and a nationwide line of grocer-distributed Sylvia's Food Products. She also authored two celebrated cookbooks – "Sylvia's Family Soul Food Cookbook: From Hemingway, South Carolina, To Harlem" and "Sylvia's Soul Food."

“Sylvia Woods was a phenomenal woman that contributed wonderful food and entertainment, to not only the Harlem community but countless audiences worldwide,” said Randy Tucker, Vice President of the NAACP’s Harlem Branch.  “As a woman of color she set a great example of entrepreneurship. She will certainly be missed by our community.

A native of Hemingway, South Carolina, Woods moved to New York as a teenager to join her mother, who had gone there for work.  Nearly two decades later, with help from her mother, who mortgaged the family farm, Woods bought Johnson’s Luncheonette, where she was once employed, and renamed it Sylvia’s.  She maintained the landmark operation until her 80th birthday when she passed the torch to her children and grandchildren.

Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities, conducting voter mobilization and monitoring equal opportunity in the public and private sectors.

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