Virginia Ali (née Rollins; born December 17, 1933) is an American business owner known for co-founding Ben's Chili Bowl in Washington, D.C.

Virginia Ali
Profile view of Ali smiling at something off-camera.
Ali at Ben's Chili Bowl (2019)
Virginia Rollins

(1933-12-17) December 17, 1933 (age 90)
Known forBen's Chili Bowl
SpouseBen Ali

Early life edit

Ali was born on December 17, 1933, and is of African American and Native American descent.[1] She was raised in rural Virginia and was educated in a segregated school system.[2] She moved with her family to Washington, D.C., in the 1950s.[2]

Career edit

After moving to Washington, Ali worked as a teller at Industrial Bank, a historic Black owned business.[3] It was there that she met husband Ben Ali when he visited the bank to deposit money from a local restaurant where he worked.[3]

Ali and Ben opened Ben's Chili Bowl on U Street in Washington, D.C., on August 22, 1958.[4][5] Many famous entertainers frequented the family-run restaurant, in the heart of the Shaw neighborhood. The restaurant became a favorite late-night gathering place for the likes of Duke Ellington, Dinah Washington and Redd Foxx.[6] Martin Luther King Jr., Jesse Jackson, and Stokely Carmichael often ate together at the Chili Bowl.[7]

During the 1968 Washington, D.C., riots after the death of King, Ali kept the Chili Bowl open at the request of Stokely Carmichael.[2]

Ali has served on the boards of several organizations, including For Love of Children.[8]

Awards and honors edit

Ali and her husband were inducted into the DC Hall of Fame in 2002.[8] She and Ben received the Key to the City from mayor Adrian Fenty in honor of the restaurant’s 50th anniversary in 2008.[8]

Personal life edit

Virginia and Ben Ali were married on October 10, 1958; together they had three sons.[6] Each of their children were given the middle name Ben in case they took over the restaurant.[6] All three eventually became involved in running the restaurant after Ben's death.[9]

References edit

  1. ^ Sidman, Jessica (December 17, 2020). "Ben's Chili Bowl Owner Virginia Ali Turns 87 Today. Here's What She's Most Grateful For". Washingtonian. Archived from the original on July 16, 2021. Retrieved August 12, 2021.
  2. ^ a b c Foster, Margaret (1 April 2019). "She built more than a restaurant". Beacon. Retrieved 24 February 2022.
  3. ^ a b Adkins, Lenore T. (23 August 2018). "Virginia Ali, Owner of Ben's Chili Bowl, Embraces 60 Years of Change". AFRO American Newspapers. Retrieved 24 February 2022.
  4. ^ "My Story: Virginia Ali". Washington Business Journal. July 31, 2020. Archived from the original on 2021-08-13. Retrieved 2021-08-13.
  5. ^ "Turning Back the Clock with Virginia Ali of Ben's Chili Bowl | Washington DC". Archived from the original on 2021-08-11. Retrieved 2021-08-12.
  6. ^ a b c Schudel, Matt (9 October 2009). "Ben Ali, 82, Whose Chili Bowl Became a D.C. Landmark, Dies". The Washington Post. Retrieved 24 February 2022.
  7. ^ "My story : Virginia Ali". Retrieved 2022-03-03.
  8. ^ a b c "Ben's Chili Bowl Virginia Ali | Q&A | Where are the Black Chefs? | PBS". Where are the Black Chefs? | PBS. Archived from the original on 2021-06-23. Retrieved 2021-08-12.
  9. ^ Azam, Nuzaira (5 April 2021). "From MLK and civil rights movement to BLM and storming of Capitol, Virginia Ali has seen it all". The American Bazaar. Retrieved 24 February 2022.

External links edit