Jessica B Harris is one of the distinguished contributors to the enrichment of black history. Ella Fitzgerald rightly says Just don’t give up trying to do what you really want to do. Where there is love and inspiration, I don’t think you can go wrong” 

What is Black History in History?

History is made by us, we live it and we write it too. History is the recording of events, incidents, and stories that happen to us and to other people. History turns what is good and what is bad into references that we go back to and learn from.

Admittedly, writing history is great but making it is a different story. It takes special effort to make history. People who left their mark in the world and influenced others did not plan it but they believed in something. And they acted on those beliefs. They overcame challenges in order to materialize those beliefs.

Black history is an important part of the world’s heritage, which enriched the world in so many ways.

Jessica B Harris and Black History

In this Black History Month, I chose a lady who made a remarkable contribution to black history.

Being the only child in her family, Jessica Harris was born in Queens, New York in 1948. From 1953 to 1961, Ms. Harris attended the United Nations International School in New York City. She graduated from the High School of Performing Arts when she was sixteen years old and went on to earn an A.B. in French from Bryn Mawr College (1968). In her junior year at Bryn Mawr, Harris studied in Paris. Following graduation, Harris returned to France to study at the Universite de Nancy for one year. She then earned her master’s degree from Queens College (1971) and a Ph.D. from New York University (1983). In 1972, Harris traveled to West Africa to work on her doctoral dissertation. 

Jessica Harris Lifetime Achiever for Black History

Jessica Harris, Lifetime Achiever in Black History

Jessica Harris’ Rich Career

In the 1970s, Harris started her career as a journalist before becoming a food writer. She was book review editor at Essence and theater critic for New York Amsterdam News, the United States’ oldest black newspaper. 

Subsequently, Ms. Harris turned into an educator. She became a professor emeritus in the English Department at Queens College/C.U.N. Y, where she taught for 50 years. She hosts a monthly program, My Welcome Table, on Heritage Radio Network. She has published 12 books. Her primary subjects are the culinary history, foodways, and recipes of the African diaspora. Ms. Harris was a 2004 winner of the lifetime achievement awards from the Southern Foodways Alliance and a 2010 James Beard Foundation special award honoree. In 2017, she published the memoir My Soul Looks Back

Furthermore, by the year 2020, Jessica Harris won a James Beard Foundation Award for Lifetime Achievement for her lifetime contribution to black history and African culture in general. In May 2021, Netflix released a four-episode series High on the Hog: How African American Cuisine Transformed America based on Harris’ 2011 book High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America.  In September 2021, she appeared on Time 100, Time‘s annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world. 

Jessica Harris’ Lifetime Contribution to Black History 

Harris resides in Brooklyn, New York, Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, and New Orleans, Louisiana.

Jessica Harris’ Works and Publications: 

  • Hot Stuff: A Cookbook in Praise of the Piquant, Atheneum, 1985 – 278 pages
  • Sky Juice and Flying Fish: Tastes of A Continent, Simon & Schuster, 1991 – 240 pages
  • Tasting Brazil: Regional Recipes and Reminiscences, Macmillan, 1992 – 285 pages
  • The World Beauty Book: How We Can All Look and Feel Wonderful Using the Natural Beauty Secrets of Women of Color, Harper San Francisco, 1995 – 211 pages
  • The Welcome Table: African-American Heritage Cooking, Simon & Schuster, February 2, 1995 – 285 pages
  • On the Side: More Than 100 Recipes for the Sides, Salads, and Condiments that Make the Meal, Simon & Schuster, 1998 – 176 pages
  • A Kwanzaa Keepsake: Celebrating the Holiday with New Traditions and Feasts, Simon & Schuster, 1998 – 176 pages
  • The Africa Cookbook: Tastes of a Continent, Simon, and Schuster, 1998 – 382 pages
  • Iron Pots & Wooden Spoons: Africa’s Gifts to New World Cooking, Simon & Schuster, February 3, 1999 – 224 pages 
  • Beyond Gumbo: Creole Fusion Food from the Atlantic Rim, Simon & Schuster, February 25, 2003 – 400 pages 
  • High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America, Bloomsbury Publishing USA, January 11, 2011 – 304 pages
  • Rum Drinks: 50 Caribbean Cocktails, From Cuba Libre to Rum Daisy, Chronicle Books, July 23, 2013 – 168 pages
  • The Martha’s Vineyard Table, Chronicle Books, July 30, 2013 – 204 pages
  • My Soul Looks Back, Scribner, 2017 – 244 pages
  • Vintage Postcards from the African World: In the Dignity of Their Work and the Joy of Their Play, University Press of Mississippi, 2020 – 152 pages.

Authored by  Yasmine Deraz

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