Before Martha Stewart, there was chef, author, TV host 'Mama Lena' Richard

February is Black History Month and we'll be honoring some of our nation's most important, and often forgotten about, figures in Black history.

Born Lena Richard in the small town of New Roads, Louisiana, "Mama Lena" became a chef and eventually moved to New Orleans where she broke many barriers in the Jim Crow south.

In 1939, she self-published a cookbook titled "Lena Richard's Cook Book." It was filled with more than 300 creole recipes. Her book was endorsed by James Beard, the renowned food critic of the time.

A year later Houghton Mifflin published Richard's book under the title "New Orleans Cook Book."\

Richard also opened a cooking school, a frozen food company and a restaurant.  Then in 1949 Lena Richard became the first Black woman to host her own television cooking show. 

Lena Richard

It was called "Lena Richard's New Orleans Cook Book," where she prepared recipes from her cookbook twice a week.

Richard died unexpectedly in 1950 at the age of 58. But you can still buy her cookbook, "New Orleans Cookbook" on Amazon today.

Lena Richard