Dr. Janette Hoston Harris, D.C. historian and fierce freedom fighter, died Friday, Nov. 2 in her District home. She was 79.
Harris was one of six Southern University students arrested in 1960 for attempting to desegregate an all-White lunch counter in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The group was subsequently expelled from the university and, by order of the governor, prohibited from attending any college in the state.
“The Southern University family expresses our deepest sympathies to the loved ones of Dr. Harris,” Ray L. Belton, president of the Southern University System and chancellor of the Baton Rouge campus, said in a statement to Baton Rouge television station WBRZ.
“While a student here, she bravely participated in one of the most prolific sit-ins here in Baton Rouge as part of this nation’s civil rights movement,” Belton said. “For this and her many contributions nationally, we will always salute her.”
She later graduated from Central State University in Ohio, then went on to receive her master’s degree and doctorate from Howard University.
“Our city and our nation have lost a trailblazer, a champion for civil rights, and a woman of many firsts,” said D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser. “When we talk about standing on the shoulders of those who came before us, we are referring to the likes of Dr. Janette Hoston Harris. Dr. Harris fought, sacrificed, and paved the way for women and generations of people of color. She was a courageous leader who helped define history, and served as an inspiration to all who she encountered.”