First female African-American UM Law School graduate speaks on campus today

Posted on Feb 8 2018 - 7:58am by Kajah Kennedy

The Honorable Constance Slaughter-Harvey, who made her mark as the first African-American woman to graduate from the University of Mississippi School of Law and later as the first African-American woman judge in the state of Mississippi will discuss her life, struggles and success tonight in Weems Auditorium.

The event, titled  “Because of Her We Can,” will begin at 5 p.m. and is being hosted by the Undergraduate Black Law Student Association as part of Black History Month.

Members of the Undergraduate Black Law Student Association said they hope that hearing Slaughter-Harvey’s story will serve as inspiration to all of the attendees.

“I hope they realize they can break grounds like Mrs. Slaughter-Harvey has,” said Kornicha Johnson, vice president of the UBLSA. “I want them to realize that if they stay dedicated and committed to the cause and to what they want to do in their career path and know their purpose and try to do everything they can to carry out that purpose, that they can reach their goals.”

Slaughter-Harvey graduated from the university in 1970 and began working for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law for two years as a staff attorney. After representing the families of two students who were killed at Jackson State and other students who were brutalized by highway patrolmen, she filed a desegregation lawsuit against the highway patrol, which resulted in the hiring of African-American highway patrolmen. She then relocated to her hometown of Forest to begin a private law practice.

Much of Slaughter-Harvey’s work has been to not only fight for the civil rights of African-Americans but also those who are underprivileged.

Slaughter-Harvey, along with Secretary Dick Molpus, lobbied for mail-in voter registration, which was signed into law in April 1991. She also fought for Motor Voter Registration and became the first African-American and first female member of the Motor Voter National Advisory Board.

“Ms. Slaughter-Harvey has worked as the executive director of Southern Legal Rights and the director of East Mississippi Legal Services,” said LaKayla Love, president of the Undergraduate Black Law Student Association.

Slaughter-Harvey has received honors from multiple organizations, including the National Council of Negro Women Outstanding Service Award (1987 and 1993), two NAACP Legal Awards (1990 and 1999), the Mississippi Women Lawyers’ Outstanding Woman Lawyer Award (2000) and the Mississippi Bar’s Susie Blue Buchanan Award (2004), for her dedication and commitment to the continuing struggle for justice.

The Black Law Student Association at the University of Mississippi School of Law was named in her honor and she has received the law school’s Public Service Award, becoming the first female and first African-American to be honored.

“This event is not only meant to be inspirational, but it will allow students and attendees the opportunity to take a look at some of the other ways African-Americans have impacted the university and continued to make history in the state of Mississippi,” Love said.  “This is untold history. It is a story for all to hear. No one really knows about it, so it is time to listen.”

Malik Pridgeon, director of outreach for the Undergraduate Black Law Student Association, said it is important to honor and recognize heroes and heroines.

“It is important because if we do not learn from history, then it will repeat itself,” Pridgeon said.

This article was submitted to The Daily Mississippian from an advanced reporting class.