Leslie M. Harris is a professor of history and African American studies at Northwestern University. A specialist in pre–Civil War African American history, she has authored or coedited five books, including In the Shadow of Slavery: African Americans in New York City, 1626–1863 (University of Chicago Press, 2003) and Slavery and the University: Histories and Legacies (University of Georgia Press, 2019). Harris has also participated in a number of public history projects, including the award-winning exhibition Slavery in New York at the New-York Historical Society and the accompanying book; the reinterpretation of the urban slave quarters at Telfair Museum’s Owens-Thomas House in Savannah, Georgia, which included the coedited volume Slavery and Freedom in Savannah (University of Georgia Press, 2013); and the interactive Historic Hudson Valley website People Not Property: Stories of Slavery in the Colonial North.
As the Beatrice Shepherd Blane Fellow, Harris is completing “Leaving New Orleans: A Personal Urban History.” She uses memoir and family, urban, and environmental histories to explore the multiple meanings of New Orleans in the nation, from its founding through its uncertain future amid climate change.
Harris received her undergraduate degree at Columbia University and her doctoral degree at Stanford University. Before moving to Northwestern, she taught for 21 years at Emory University. Her work has been supported by the Andrew W. Mellon and Ford Foundations, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the Institute for Historical Studies at the University of Texas at Austin, and the University of Maryland.