Before the Mississippi Legislature concluded its session in March, the Mississippi House of Representatives passed Resolution 37 to honor University of Mississippi School of Law alumna Constance Slaughter-Harvey.
The resolution commends and honors her legacy as an attorney, judge, civil rights activist, community leader and mentor.
Slaughter-Harvey has spent her life as a trailblazer. Originally from Forest, she completed her undergraduate degree at Tougaloo College, where she was elected the first female student body president. In 1970, she became the first African American female graduate of the UM School of Law.
In an effort to create a space and system of support for Black students in law school, she joined students from across the country as a founding member of National Black Law Students Association, or BLSA, when it formed at Rutgers University in 1968. UM Law’s chapter of BLSA is named after her. Inspired to attend law school by Medgar Evers, Slaughter-Harvey began her career with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law to advocate for the rights of others. In 1976, she became the first African American female to be appointed as a judge in Mississippi.
In 2022, Slaughter-Harvey was named UM Law Alumna of the Year.
The resolution states:
“A RESOLUTION COMMENDING AND HONORING THE AMAZING LIFE AND IMPRESSIVE LEGACY OF ATTORNEY CONSTANCE SLAUGHTER-HARVEY FOR BEING A HISTORIC TRAILBLAZING ATTORNEY, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST, COMMUNITY LEADER, AND TREASURED MENTOR WHO HAS INSPIRED COUNTLESS WOMEN AND MEN.
WHEREAS, Attorney Constance Slaughter-Harvey is a living legal icon who is best known as the first African-American female to earn a law degree from the University of Mississippi during a tortuous time in Mississippi’s history, and has since then accumulated numerous other firsts, including being the first African-American judge in Mississippi, while also serving as a living symbol of hope and inspiration for generations of female and male lawyers throughout this state and this nation; and
WHEREAS, Attorney Slaughter-Harvey’s historic relevance lauds her alongside other dynamic, aspirational female history makers, such as Fannie Lou Hamer and Evelyn Gandy; and
WHEREAS, born in Jackson, Mississippi, on June 18, 1946, and raised as one of six daughters to Mr. Willie L. Slaughter and Olivia Kelly Slaughter, both of whom were educators and civil rights pioneers, a young Constance graduated as valedictorian of the segregated E.T. Hawkins High School and enrolled at Tougaloo College in 1963, where she met the revolutionary civil rights leader Medgar Evers; and
WHEREAS, when her friend Medgar was murdered in June 1963, the values instilled by her parents and the racial injustices she witnessed motivated Constance to join the Civil Rights Movement; and
WHEREAS, on January 27, 1970, she became the first
African-American female to receive a law degree from the University of Mississippi, and after graduation, she joined the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law as a staff attorney and worked there until 1972, when she returned to Forest and established her private law practice, and she served as Executive Director of the Southern Legal Rights and later became Director of East Mississippi Legal Services; and
WHEREAS, in 1980, she joined the staff of Governor William Winter as Director of Human Development, and in 1984, became Assistant Secretary of State for Elections and Public Lands with Secretary of State, Dick Molpus and together, she and Molpus reformed Sixteenth Section School and Public Trust Lands, and lobbied for Mail-In Voter Registration which was signed into law on April 1, 1991; and
WHEREAS, Attorney Slaughter-Harvey led the fight for Motor Voter Registration and became a member of the National Motor Voter Advisory Board, and in 1991, she was promoted to General Counsel and continued to serve as Assistant Secretary of Elections; and
WHEREAS, in 1995, Attorney Slaughter-Harvey became the Coordinator of the Mississippi State Democratic Party and was responsible for the campaigns of all Democratic candidates in the state, but returned to her law practice in 1996, to become President of Elections, Inc.; and
WHEREAS, driven by her passion to lay a positive, strong foundation for the future, she created the Slaughter Memorial that provides programs in after-school tutorial and enhancement, abstinence, and several other youth initiatives, and served as president in a number of organizations that provide services to underserved communities; and
WHEREAS, from 2004 to 2007, Attorney Slaughter-Harvey was involved in nursing home trial litigation across the state, and later began serving as the Scott County Youth Court Prosecutor while she passionately improved the options for youth in Mississippi until she retired at the age of 76 in June of this year; and
WHEREAS, for 35 years, she also found time to honor her college alma mater, Tougaloo College, by serving as an Adjunct Professor and was rewarded for her sacrifice with the establishment of the Constance Slaughter-Harvey Endowed Chair in Political Science/Pre-Law at Tougaloo College by friends, Banker, Thomas Colbert and wife, Ann; and
WHEREAS, throughout her career, Constance has been celebrated with awards, honors and prestigious recognitions totaling over 5,000 to date; and
WHEREAS, a few of her honors include awards from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Mississippi Women Lawyers, the Mississippi Bar Association, the American Bar Association, naming the Black Law Students Association at the University of Mississippi in her honor, receiving the University of Mississippi’s Public Service Award; and
WHEREAS, throughout all of her tremendously historic and meaningful endeavors, she has been lovingly supported by her husband, James Arthur Burwell, daughter, Constance Olivia, and son, James Arthur III; and
WHEREAS, it is most appropriate to honor and celebrate the legacies of living historic icons, such as Attorney Constance Slaughter-Harvey, who has left and continues to leave a positive imprint in every endeavor she undertakes:
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI, That we do hereby commend and honor the amazing life and legacy of Attorney Constance Slaughter-Harvey for being a historic trailblazing attorney, civil rights activist, community leader and treasured mentor who has inspired countless women, men and children.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That copies of this resolution be furnished to Attorney Constance Slaughter-Harvey and to the members of the Capitol Press Corps.”