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New York Times Bestselling Author Jessica B. Harris Headlines MLK Celebration

Jessica B. Harris, food scholar and New York Times bestselling author
Jessica B. Harris, food scholar and New York Times bestselling author
Courtesy: Harry Walker Agency

Jessica B. Harris, food scholar and New York Times bestselling author, will be the keynote speaker for the annual Martin Luther King Jr. celebration at UNCW. The MLK Celebration is slated for Feb. 7, 2024, at 7 p.m. in Kenan Auditorium.

Many consider Harris to be one of the ranking authorities on African Diaspora food. Harris has authored, edited or translated 18 books, including 12 cookbooks documenting the foodways of the African Diaspora. Her award-winning book, High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America, was the basis for the acclaimed Netflix docuseries of the same name.

In 2020, Harris received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the James Beard Foundation. The award is given to an individual whose lifetime body of work has had a positive and long-lasting impact on the way we eat, cook or think about food in America.

“While some won’t readily understand the importance of culinary history as a part of the MLK celebrations, we hope to provide nuance and insight as we think about what it means for African Americans to make meaning of freedom movements by sitting at lunch counters or strategizing over coffee and pie,” said Sean Palmer, director of UNCW’s Upperman African American Cultural Center. “Dr. Harris will help us better understand the connection of the fork and the ballot box. We are excited to learn from her culinary table. Who would be better to tell the story of Black food pathways and their influence in history and justice movements than the magnanimous Jessica B. Harris?"

Admission to the MLK observance is free, but tickets are required. Individuals can acquire tickets through the Kenan Box Office website. Tickets are also available at the Kenan Box Office from noon to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday. A maximum of two tickets are allowed per individual. Groups may reserve tickets by emailing Milton D. Gore, Jr. at For additional information, call 910.962.3303.