SU alum, Baton Rouge sit-in participant dies at home in D.C.

Southern Alumna dies

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The Southern University community is mourning the loss of an educator, public servant, activist, and alumna.

Janette Hoston Harris died Friday, November 2 at her home in Washington, D.C.

“The Southern University family expresses our deepest sympathies to the loved ones of Dr. Harris. 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. For this and her many contributions nationally, we will always salute her,” said Ray L. Belton, president of the Southern University System and chancellor of the Baton Rouge campus.

The university says in 1960, Harris was one of six SU students arrested for trying to desegregate an all-white lunch counter in Baton Rouge. The students were also expelled from the university by order of the governor and prohibited from attending any college in the state. While attending Central State University in Ohio, Harris' case challenging segregation, Hoston v. State of Louisiana, went before the Louisiana Supreme Court and in time became part of the larger Garner v. State of Louisiana case, which was won by Thurgood Marshall in 1962.

Harris earned her bachelor’s degree from Central State, then volunteered in the Peace Corps. During her professional career in Washington, D.C., her positions included:

  • Educator in the public school system
  • Instructor at Federal City College (now the University of the District of Columbia)
  • Director of education affairs
  • Director of the mayor’s office of intergovernmental relations
  • City historian

Harris also served as campaign manager for the Carter-Mondale Presidential Re-election Campaign and research associate for the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History. The university says she also lead a consulting firm, called JOR Associates.

Harris also earned a master’s degree and Ph.D. from Howard University. She received numerous awards in her lifetime for her civic and educational work. In 2004, Harris, along with the other students who participated in the sit-in, were awarded their degrees from Southern. Harris was also awarded a Southern University Alumni Federation Lifetime Achievement Award from the school in July of 2018.

Harris is survived by her husband, Rudolph Harris, and their children, Rylan and Junie. Harris received her undergraduate degree at Central State University and a Masters and Ph.D from Howard University.

Copyright 2018 WAFB. All rights reserved.