Leslie M. Harris

Winship Distinguished Research Professor in the Humanities, 2011-2014 Associate Professor

Department of History

Office: Bowden 307

Phone: (404) 727-5130

Email: lharr04@emory.edu


Leslie Harris, Associate Professor, (B.A., Columbia University, 1988; Ph.D, Stanford University, 1995).  Pre-Civil War African-American Labor and Social History; History and Historiography of U.S. Slavery; Urban History; Southern History; History of Women and Gender.  

My career as an historian and teacher has focused on complicating the ideas we all hold about the history of African Americans in the United States; and finding ways to communicate these new ideas to the general public. My first body of research focuses on African Americans in the Pre-Civil War United States. With my first book, In the Shadow of Slavery, I challenged the prevailing view of slavery as a phenomenon of the southern United States, with little impact or importance in the northern U.S. Using New York City as a case study, I demonstrate the ways in which both northern and southern slavery, northern emancipation, and racial identity influenced definitions of citizenship, class, and community for blacks and whites in the pre-Civil War United States. I am now at work on a book on late-twentieth century New Orleans, which captures a history that I believe is being obscured by the responses to the 2005 Hurricane Season. Upon completion of that book, I will return to two projects about gender and southern slavery: one that looks at twentieth-century historians’ analyses of gender in southern slavery; and a second that creates a new history of slavery and gender through the question of manhood.

I have also focused upon community and diversity in public scholarship. I served as a principal adviser to the “Slavery in New York” exhibit at the New-York Historical Society (2005-2006), which garnered international attention, and co-edited the book that accompanied it. I am currently working on a similar project with Telfair Museum’s Owens-Thomas House of Savannah, Georgia. With Daina Ramey Berry, I co-edited Slavery and Freedom in Savannah. From 2004-2011, I served as co-founder and director of the Transforming Community Project (TCP), which was funded by the Ford Foundation's Difficult Dialogues Initiative and the Office of the President of Emory University.

I am also the principal investigator for the New Orleans After Katrina project. Funded by the Emory Provost’s Office Research Collaboration in the Humanities Initiative, this digital humanities project has created the New Orleans Research Collaborative, which utilizes Zotero and Omeka to allow students, scholars, and the general public a way to approach the history of New Orleans in a collaborative and critical fashion.

Book Projects:

  • In the Shadow of Slavery: African Americans in New York City, 1626-1863 (University of Chicago Press, 2003), awarded the Wesley-Logan Prize by the American Historical Association and the Association for the Study of African American Life and History.

  • Slavery in New York, co-edited with Ira Berlin (New Press, 2005)

  • Slavery and Freedom in Savannah, co-edited with Daina Ramey Berry (University of Georgia Press, 2014), awarded 2014 Leadership in History Award of Merit, American Association for State and Local History and 2014 Award For Excellence in Documenting Georgia’s History, Georgia Historical Records Advisory Council

  • “Leaving New Orleans: A Personal Urban History,” (In process)

  • “Antebellum Slavery, Twentieth Century Historians, and the Gender Question,” (In process)

  • "Enchained Masculinity: African-American Men of the Slave South" (In process)

  • "Slavery and the University: Histories and Legacies," co-editor with Susan Ashmore, Mark Auslander, Albert Brophy, and James Campbell, (In process)

  • "Sexuality and Slavery: Reclaiming Intimate Histories in the Americas,” co-editor with Daina Ramey Berry, (In process)

Emory News:

Other current projects include:

  • Leslie Harris is an Organization of American Historians Distinguished Lecturer.
    For more information about the program, click here.

My Curriculum Vitae


  • BA, Columbia University, 1988.
  • MA, Stanford University, 1993.
  • PhD, Stanford University, 1995.


  • African American history
  • American labor
  • social history

Current Graduate Students