Updated: Jan 17
Don't Sleep On The Name. Lillian Harris Dean is #BlackGirlMagicGoals
Red Line It To Pigfoot Mary's
She only had $5 in her pocket and a baby carriage while living in New York City. She had a dream, though. I'm talking about Lillian Harris Dean, known by her Harlem neighbors as Pigfoot Mary.
I am proud to be a Harlem Girl. Don't get it twisted...the only Harlem I am talking about is in my beloved New York City. It's a place filled with rich legacy and stories that can be discovered from now until my next lifetime. Yes, there is the incredible Schomburg Center For Black Research, where Langston Hughes is buried; but some stories can be uncovered by taking the time to get to know one's elderly neighbors. These people sit on their stoops, on the corner and seem to blend in like part of the ambience. Many of them recall legendary stories of Pigfoot Mary.
So Who Was This Bodacious Babe?
Born in 1870, Lillian Harris Dean hailed from the Mississippi Delta where those folk got down around the kitchen table or somebody's backyard with pig's feet, hog maws, fried chicken, chitlins in hot sauce... and don't you dare forget that buttered slab of corn bread or hot corn. When she arrived in Harlem, Lillian decided to make a living using the recipes she grew up on; there had to be a better way to make some money, right? Loading up her baby carriage with these items steaming hot from her kitchen, Lillian took to the streets right at the red line, the 2/3 subway train stop located on the corner of W.135th and Lenox. She was persistent and consistent, showing up daily to sell her wares from that baby carriage. And though it must have appeared to be the weirdest thing ever to not have a baby in that carriage, people only stopped talking about this and focused on how incredible her food was. The name "Pigfoot Mary" became a destination in Harlem. If you asked anyone how to find Lillian Dean's cart, well, that might not have gotten you very far; but if you asked "How Do I Find Pigfoot Mary's", well a few people at once could tell you where she was and what you should buy.
Ok, Don't Keep Me In Suspense... Did It Work?
Honey, let me tell you: it worked so well and Ms. Lady was such a briliant business woman, she saved her earnings from that 'cart' to purchase a 5 story apartment dwelling right on that same corner. At a purchase price of about $42,000, Pigfoot Mary became the first black woman to purchase real estate in Harlem. This wasn't the first purchase, as she would go on to invest in more real estate while continuing to sell from her cart. When she died in 1929, her estimated net worth was around $375,000 which in 2021 is the equivalent of $5.6 million dollars which didn't included all of her real estate holdings. Yes, you read this right.
Campbell & Carr salutes Lillian Dean Harris and we elevate your legacy with this tea, so that others will speak your name. When you buy this team, sip slowly and inhale the aroma deeply... you might just wind up in Harlem.