Author and historian Jessica B. Harris '68 has been awarded the James Beard Foundation 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award.
“I am humbled, honored, and more than a little astonished to receive this singular award. I am mindful that while my name is on it, it is also meant for those African Americans in the hospitality world in the past who labored unheralded, un-thanked, and for too many centuries unpaid or underpaid. I hope that this extraordinary honor heralds the beginning of a new era when all Americans can sit down and fully participate at the nation’s table and none of us are strangers at the feast,” said Harris in the statement announcing the award.
Harris is an author, editor, and translator of 18 books. Her 12 works on food document the foodways of the African Diaspora—a topic on which she is considered a ranking expert—and include Hot Stuff: A Cookbook in Praise of the Piquant; Iron Pots and Wooden Spoons: Africa’s Gifts to New World Cooking; Beyond Gumbo: Creole Fusion Food from the Atlantic Rim; and High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America. Her other works include My Soul Looks Back: A Memoir and the forthcoming Vintage Postcards from the African World, a work presenting images of the foodways and celebrations of the African Atlantic World. A culinary historian, Harris lectures internationally, is a founding member of the Southern Foodways Alliance, and served on numerous boards for many professional culinary, publishing, and editorial organizations. Harris is Professor Emerita at Queens College/CUNY in New York City, where she was a professor for 50 years. Harris was a French major at Bryn Mawr.