Dr. Annie Rene Harris Slaughter earned three degrees from Jackson State University, and now she’s established a $100,000 endowment in memory of her mother – also an alum – to help undergraduates pursue their academic dreams at their alma mater. Funds will be matched by Title III.
Harris Slaughter, a native of Yazoo County, currently resides in Atlanta. She said the Rosetta Tolbert Harris Endowed Scholarship would help defray expenses for eligible candidates. Funds will pay for tuition, textbooks, supplies and other fees included in the cost of education.
“My mother started teaching around 1928. She liked school a lot. She felt that you should have a college education even if you don’t use it for anything but to fall back on. She was particularly concerned about children who lived in rural areas, where she chose to teach,” said Harris Slaughter, who recalled a doctor’s attempt to persuade her grandmother to keep her daughter (Harris Slaughter’s mother) from going back to school.
“He told my grandmother that going to school was the reason my mother’s head kept hurting,” said Harris Slaughter. “But my mother persevered.” Her grandmother would eventually support her daughter’s decision to go back to school.
Harris Slaughter earned her bachelor’s, master’s and specialist degrees from JSU and her doctorate from Indiana University in elementary and early childhood education. She was a longtime elementary teacher in Jackson and taught briefly at IU, Kentucky State and Western Kentucky University. She retired from Atlanta Public Schools in 2004. She said the endowment is a fitting tribute because her mother “loved helping children and parents in rural areas that others neglected. She was “no nonsense,” but some of her students were household names because her mother spoke about them so often.
Early on, Harris Slaughter described JSU as the “best state school in Mississippi.” She said, “JSU laid the foundation for everything that I was to become.” She added, “At this point in my life, I want to assist some high school graduates who would not otherwise consider college as an option. I want to make sure young people have an opportunity.”
Also, she said, “When they become actively involved in campus life they will be more apt to go out in the world and become leaders.”
She said her life can be summed up in the words of a song by gospel singer Mahalia Jackson: “If I can help somebody … my living shall not be in vain.”
To be eligible, scholarship candidates must meet the following criteria:
- Be an undergraduate student attending JSU
- Reside in a residence hall on campus
- Participate in one or more campus-life organizations
- Maintain a 2.00 GPA or above
- Be an African-American first-generation college student
- Be a resident of Yazoo County in Mississippi (priority will be given to students who attended Linwood Elementary School)
Harris Slaughter’s desire now is to see more people support JSU through endowments and scholarships – especially since many African-American leaders graduated from HBCUs.
“People don’t need a handout as much as they need a hand-up,” she said.