Oral History of Constance I. Slaughter-Harvey

Attorney Constance Iona Slaughter-Harvey, a native of Forest, Mississippi, is a graduate of Hawkins High School and Tougaloo College. While at Tougaloo, she was elected President of the Student Government Association becoming the first female to serve in that capacity. On January 27, 1970, she became the first African American female to receive a law degree from the University of Mississippi.

After graduation, Attorney Slaughter-Harvey 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. She served as Executive Director of Southern Legal Rights and later became Director of East Mississippi Legal Services.

In 1980, Attorney Slaughter-Harvey joined the staff of Governor William Winter as Director of Human Development. In 1984, she became Assistant Secretary of State for Elections and Public Lands with Secretary of State, Dick Molpus. Together, she and Molpus reformed Sixteenth Section School and Public Trust Lands, and lobbied for Mail-In Voter Registration (signed into law on April 1, 1991). Attorney Slaughter-Harvey led the fight for Motor Voter Registration and became a member of the National Motor Voter Advisory Board. In 1991, she was promoted to General Counsel and continued to serve as Assistant Secretary of Elections.

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. In 1996, she returned to her law practice and became President of Elections, Inc., a position she currently holds. She is also President of the Slaughter Memorial Foundation. In this capacity, Attorney Slaughter-Harvey supervises programs in after-school tutorial and enhancement, abstinence, and several other youth initiatives.

From 2004 to 2007, Attorney Slaughter-Harvey was involved in nursing home trial litigation across the state. She presently serves, in a part-time capacity, as Scott County Youth Court Prosecutor.

For the past 35 years, Attorney Slaughter-Harvey served as Adjunct Professor at Tougaloo College. In November, 1999, she was honored with the establishment of the Constance Slaughter-Harvey Endowed Chair in Political Science/Pre-Law at Tougaloo College by banker and friends, Thomas Colbert and wife, Ann.

In 1998, the University of Mississippi's Black Law Student Association was named in her honor. Attorney Slaughter-Harvey is past President of the Magnolia Bar Association and recipient of the prestigious R. Jesse Brown Award. She has extensive achievements, awards, and honors. A partial list includes...

  • One of eight founders (only female) of the National Black Law Student Association at Rutgers University in New Jersey, 1969
  • Served with former Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, Ms. Magazine's Gloria Steinman and Ford Foundation's Franklin Thomas in organizing the Women's Action Alliance, 1971
  • Published the Status of Mississippi Homemakers for the Women's Policy Studies Center, United States Government Printing Office, 1976
  • A United States Delegate to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic, 1985
  • Mississippi State University Distinguished Service Award, 1987
  • Distinguished Black Mississippian Award from the University of Mississippi, 1990
  • Henry Toll Fellow, 1991
  • National Association of State Election Administrators (NASED) and Founder, First Female, and First Black to serve as President in 1991
  • Strategic Leadership Training at Duke University, 1992
  • National Council of Negro Women's Outstanding Service Award in 1987 and 1993
  • Doctor of Law (Honors Causa) from Mary Holmes College, October 8, 1995
  • NAACP Legal Awards for dedication and commitment to the continuing struggle for legal justice, 1990 and 1999
  • One of nine inductees as a Mississippi Bar Foundation Fellow, 2000
  • "Power of One " Award - Mississippi Woman 2000 "Power of One" Conference, April, 2000
  • Tougaloo College National Alumni Association Hall of Fame Inductee for Government and Law, October 2000
  • Mississippi Federated Women's District Woman of the Year, November 2000
  • Mississippi Women Lawyers Association's Lawyer of the Year, May 2001
  • National Bar Association International Affiliates' Meeting Delegate to South Africa, 2001
  • University of Mississippi Law School Public Service Award, December 2001
  • Bar Commissioner for the Mississippi State Bar Association representing the Eighth Circuit Court District, 2002-2005
  • Tougaloo College 2002 Alumnae of the Year
  • Nation Builder award from the National Black Caucus of State Legislators, December 2002
  • Mississippi Majesty Award, 2003
  • Susie Blue Buchanan Award, 2004 (Mississippi State Bar Association's Outstanding Female Attorney)
  • National Bar Association at International Affiliates Meetings' Attendee in Aruba, Jamaica, Spain, Ethiopia, Kenya, Egypt and Dubai
  • W. E. B. Dubois Award - The National Association of Social and Behavioral Scientists, 2006
  • Margaret Brent Women Lawyer's Achievement Award, 2006 (American Bar Association)
  • Standing on My Sisters' Shoulders - Honoree at Kennedy Center

Listed among the many affiliations and memberships of Attorney Slaughter-Harvey are the American Bar Association, Mississippi Bar Association, National Bar Association, Magnolia Bar Association (Past President), Scott County Bar Association (President), Magnolia Bar Association Foundation, Mississippi Bar Foundation Fellow and Chairwoman of the Choctaw Legal Defense Board of Directors. She is a member of the Forest Rotary Club, the 8th Judicial Circuit District Drug Court Team, the University of Mississippi School of Law Alumni Board of Directors and Vice President of the Forest Reading Program.

Life memberships include the NAACP, Girl Scouts of America, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and the National Federation of Colored Women's Clubs, National Bar Association and Magnolia Bar Association.

She is a former member of Tougaloo College's Board of Trustees, East Central Federated Women's Club (President), National Council of Negro Women, Board of Directors of The Elections Center, Mississippi Federation of Democratic Women, Southern Christian Services for Children and Youth, Inc.'s Board of Directors, Mississippi Catholic Diocesan Pastoral Council, Catholic Diocesan Planning Committee, Jackson Catholic Charities Advisory Board of Directors, Mississippi Humanities Council (Board Member from 1976-1989), National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, State Legal Service Planning Committee (2003-2004), and the Mississippi State Gender Fairness Commission (Vice Chair).

Some of the contributions in the field of law made by Attorney Slaughter-Harvey include Morrow v. Crisler, July 1970 (Highway Patrol Desegregation Lawsuit); Gates v. Collier in 1970 (co-counsel with Roy Haber- Lawyer Committee for Civil Rights Under Law) - Parchman lawsuit; $13.8 million federal lawsuit Myrtle Green Burton v. John Bell Williams against state and other defendants for wrongful deaths of Jackson State student, Phillip Gibbs and Jim Hill student, James Earl Green; and numerous police brutality actions from 1970-1973, including Washington v. Noble; served as co-counsel in numerous redistricting actions and desegregation lawsuits and was one of the original attorneys in the Jake Ayers v. State of Mississippi lawsuit.

She was selected Special Chancellor to preside over a child support custody case (1976), thus becoming the first African American appointed to serve as Judge in Mississippi. She was one of the founders and incorporators of East Mississippi Legal Services, and was a board member of Community Legal Services Board for 10 years and North MS Rural Legal Services for 22 years. She presently serves as Chairwoman of the MS Band of Choctaw Indians Legal Services Policy Board.

Governmental achievements include service on the Governor's Minority Advisory Committee under Governor William Waller (1974), Regional Presidential Team Coordinator for party nominee Jimmy Carter (1976), Fair Hearing Officer for Mississippi Health Planning and Development Agency under Governor Cliff Finch (1977) (first African American), Appointment by President Jimmy Carter (1978) as a Presidential Scholars Commissioner, Executive Director of the Governor's Office of Human Development under Governor William Winter where she consolidated six agencies into one department (1980-1984), Assisted in implementation of the first Block Grant Program in Mississippi, Mail-In-Voter Registration (1980-1991) which ended with the passage of the Mail-In-Voter Registration Act (1991), Provided a community network for Governor Winter's Public School Reform Act (1981-1982), Appointed Assistant Secretary of State for Elections and Public Lands (1984), Coordinated Election Reform Task Force (1984- 1985), Initiated Sixteenth Section School Reform Program (1984), Assistant Secretary of State for Public Lands where she reported a 2 million dollar increase in Sixteenth Section School Trust lands (1987), Initiated Public Trust Lands Project that resulted in the creation of the Public Trust Lands Blue Ribbon Commission (1988), Promoted to General Counsel and Assistant Secretary of State for Elections by Secretary of State Dick Molpus, (1989), Founder and Elected President of the National Association of State Election Directors (NASED, 1991) - becoming first African American and first female; Member of Motor Voter National Advisory Board which consisted of 12 members (1995), and Coordinator of the Mississippi State Democratic Party Coordinating Committee(1995) becoming responsible for the campaigns of all candidates in the state and serving as Campaign Manager for more than 50 local campaigns including campaigns that resulted in first African American Female officer holders in the city of Forest, Scott County, and Leake County.

Attorney Slaughter-Harvey, a member of Saint Michael Catholic Church, is the daughter of the late Forest Alderman W.L. and Olivia Kelly Slaughter. In tribute to their legacy, a foundation, library, residential subdivision, and an office building have been established. Additionally, Attorney Slaughter-Harvey is an author and a local and national public speaker. She is a columnist for the Scott County Times, following in the footsteps of her mother, Mrs. Olivia Kelley Slaughter (first African American columnist) who asked her to continue the legacy and she has fulfilled this request since her mother's death in 1991.

Attorney Slaughter-Harvey is the mother of Constance Olivia Slaughter-Harvey Burwell who is a New Voices Fellow assigned to Southern Echo, and President of The OLIVIA Group. She and her husband, James, reside in Jackson, MS with their son, James Arthur Emmanuel Burwell, Ill, a/k/a Tre'.

Biographical Sketch of Constance Iona Slaughter-Harvey revised 12/2010

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Constance Slaughter-Harvey, A.B.A.: Previous Margaret Brent Women Law. Achievement Award Recipients, See video of introduction and acceptance speech.