(JACKSON, Miss.) – Former Mississippi assistant secretary of state, general counsel and civil rights advocate Constance Slaughter-Harvey will keynote the annual celebration of life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at 10 a.m. Friday, Jan. 17, at Jackson State University.
The convocation will be held inside Rose E. McCoy Auditorium on the main campus. Immediately following, the For My People Awards will take place at 11:30 a.m. in the Terry L. Woodard Ballroom in the Student Center. Slaughter-Harvey will be among this year’s recipients.
For My People recognizes individuals for their contributions to African American history and culture. Named after Margaret Walker’s classic poem “For My People,” past recipients of the award include James Meredith, Unita Blackwell, Andrew Young, Reena Evers-Everette and Lottie Joiner.
Meanwhile, Slaughter-Harvey, a native of Jackson and reared in Forest, Mississippi, is founder and president of Legacy Education and Community Empowerment Foundation, Inc. She is also the first African American woman to receive a law degree from the University of Mississippi (1970) and first female African American to serve as a judge in Mississippi (1975).
The Black Law Student Association (BLSA) at the University of Mississippi School of Law was named in her honor. (She was not only one of the founders but the only woman founder of the National BLSA in 1968). Slaughter-Harvey also received the law school’s public service award, thus becoming the first woman and first African American to be so honored.
For more than 36 years, Slaughter-Harvey was an adjunct professor at Tougaloo College (where she was the first female student government president in 1966). She is president of the Scott County Bar Association (10 years) and prosecutor for the Scott County Youth Court (eight years). She is the past president of the Magnolia Bar Association, Catholic Charities Board, Central Mississippi Legal Services, Forest Rotary Club, and National Association of State Election Directors, where she was the first woman and first African American.
Slaughter-Harvey is the recipient of the American Bar Association’s Margaret Brent Award and Mississippi Bar’s Susie Buchanan Award,which are the highest honors bestowed on female attorneys. She has received more than 600 awards for her outstanding contributions and is a life member of Girl Scouts of America, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Magnolia Bar Association/Foundation, National Bar Association, American Bar Foundation, Mississippi Bar Foundation, NAACP, National Federated Women, and Rotary International (Paul Harris Fellow).
In 2000, she was inducted into Tougaloo College’s Hall of Fame, National Bar Association (2010), University of Mississippi School of Law (2013), and the University of Mississippi (2016). She is featured in the documentary “Standing on My Sisters’ Shoulders,”which received honors and recognition at the Kennedy Center in New York in 2004. She received the 2016 Heritage Award from Mississippi Power and The Rabbi Perry Nussbaum Civil Justice Award in 2016 from Millsaps College, Two Rivers Gala 2017 Tougaloo College Honoree, and Women of Distinction – Laureates for Greater Mississippi Girl Scouts in 2017.
Slaughter-Harvey has filed more than 200 legal actions, including the lawsuit desegregating the Mississippi Highway Patrol and the lawsuit against the state and city of Jackson for the wrongful deaths of students James Green and Phillip Gibbs at Jackson State in 1970. She is one of the original attorneys in the Jake Ayers lawsuit and filed many voting rights and redistricting cases. She also has extensive experience in nursing home and personal injury lawsuits. She has received more than 2,000 awards for her work.
This year’s MLK Convocation is part of a series of curated events paying tribute to the lives of Gibbs, 21, then a political science major at Jackson State College, and Green, 17, then a student at the neighboring Jim Hill High School. They died in a barrage of bullets, May 15, 1970, that was unleashed by local and state police in response to alleged student protests. A dozen others were wounded by gunfire.