Dean, Lillian Harris “Pig Foot Mary”
- Paul Devlin
entrepreneur in the food service and real estate arenas, was born Lillian Harris in the Mississippi Delta. She made a small fortune selling pigs’ feet and other Southern culinary delicacies on the streets of Harlem, first out of an old baby carriage, later out of a steam table attached to a newsstand owned by John Dean, who became her husband. She multiplied this small fortune through shrewd real estate investments and retired comfortably in California, where she died in 1929. According to the journalist Roi Ottley, she arrived in New York in 1901 and first worked as a domestic. She soon began selling pigs’ feet in the San Juan Hill section of Manhattan, which was then a large African American neighborhood (before Harlem gained prominence) and later became the site of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. Duke Ellington immortalized the rough and tumble San ...
A version of this article originally appeared in African American National Biography.