Vintage Postcards from the African World
In the Dignity of Their Work and the Joy of Their Play
An extraordinary view of the bounty of Africa and its diaspora
For over forty years, professor and culinary historian Jessica B. Harris has collected postcards depicting Africans and their descendants in the American diaspora. They are presented for the first time in this exquisite volume. Vintage Postcards from the African World: In the Dignity of Their Work and the Joy of Their Play brings together more than 150 images, providing a visual document of more than a century of work in agricultural and culinary pursuits and joy in entertainments, parades, and celebrations.
Organized by geography—Africa, the Caribbean, and the United States—as well as by the types of scenes depicted—the farm, the garden, and the sea; the marketplace; the vendors and the cooks; leisure, entertainments, and festivities—the images capture the dignity of the labors of everyday life and the pride of festive occasions. Superb and rare images demonstrate everything from how Africans and their descendants dressed to what tools they used to how their entertainments provided relief from toil.
Three essays accompany the postcards, one of which details Harris’s collection and the collecting process. A second presents suggestions on how to interpret the cards. A final essay gives brief information on the history of postcards and postcard dating and its increasing use and value to scholars.
Jessica Harris has done it again! The trailblazing culinary historian has given us an intimate view of her thinking as a scholar of the world and her experiences as a deltiologist. Harris’s recollections of how she became a collector of postcards takes us through the side streets and back alleys of Paris, in barns out in the Midwest, and through the halls of exclusive auction houses as she searches for some of the best, most pristine representations of the culinary worlds of African and Caribbean people, throughout the diaspora. Vintage Postcards from the African World: In the Dignity of Their Work and the Joy of Their Play is nothing less than a visual cornucopia of beauty illustrating pride in work and the liveliness and mundaneness of everyday life in ways we have rarely, if ever, seen in this genre. This volume is to be prized by those interested in archival research, ephemera, and the material culture of African diasporic peoples at work and play with food. As Harris rightly notes, ‘The world of postcards is serious business,’ and everyone from laypersons to collectors and scholars to enthusiasts will mightily benefit from the array of images amassed in this beautifully arranged volume. It will be a joy to read and review over and over again.- Psyche Williams-Forson, author of Building Houses out of Chicken Legs: Black Women, Food, and Power
Just love these images. These postcards render such a rich and wholesome view of the many members who make up the African world. I just fell in love with these individual representations from the world of my cousins. These subjects declare their agency, dignity, decency, and virtuous character. A great book made up of the kinds of photographs I wish that I had been there to make. We are indebted to the many photographers who had the clearness of heart to make these loving images and to Jessica Harris for her mission of discovery. What a people we are.- Chester Higgins, photographer, public speaker, and coauthor of It’s Been Beautiful: Soul! and Black Power Television
In this extraordinary work, Dr. Harris takes us on a captivating tour through her postcard collection and shows how each one is a window into culture, time, place, and, ultimately, ourselves.- Peter J. Kim, founding director of the Museum of Food and Drink in New York City