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Reverend Curtis Harris

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Information about Reverend Curtis Harris

Profile image of Reverend Curtis Harris

Profession

Category:
PoliticalMakers
ReligionMakers
Occupation(s):
Mayor
Pastor

Favorites

Favorite Color:
None
Favorite Food:
None
Favorite Time of Year:
None
Favorite Vacation Spot:
None
Favorite Quote:
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Birthplace

Born:
7/1/1924
Birth Location:
Denron, Virginia

Profession

Category:
PoliticalMakers
ReligionMakers
Occupation(s):
Mayor
Pastor

Favorites

Favorite Color:
None
Favorite Food:
None
Favorite Time of Year:
None
Favorite Vacation Spot:
None
Favorite Quote:
None

Birthplace

Born:
7/1/1924
Birth Location:
Denron
See how Reverend Curtis Harris is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Curtis West Harris was born on July 1, 1924 in Denron, Virginia. His father left the family when he was a young boy and his mother moved the family to Hopewell, where she worked as a domestic. There, Harris earned his high school diploma from Carter G. Woodson High School in 1944. After graduation, he went to work for a cotton plant called Hercules. Knowing he wanted more out of life, he convinced his older sister to pay for tuition at Virginia Union University in Richmond.

Harris attended Virginia Union from 1945 until 1946, when he married his high school sweetheart. The young couple moved to Norfolk but soon returned to Hopewell where he began working as a janitor at Allied Chemical. During this time Harris became active in the civil rights movement. In 1959, he became the pastor of Union Baptist Church.

Harris was active in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). He participated in the famous march from Selma to Montgomery and volunteered to serve as a human shield for Martin Luther King, Jr., during the march. In 1963, he successfully fought the Ku Klux Klan and the city of Hopewell to prevent the city from building a landfill in the African American community. In 1964 Harris' two sons helped integrate Hopewell High School.

Beginning in the 1960s Harris unsuccessfully ran for a seat on the Hopewell city council seven times. Finally, in 1983, he forced the city to switch from its at-large system to a ward system and became the second African American to serve on the Hopewell city council. In 1996, Harris became the second African American Vice-Mayor of the city and eventually became the first black mayor in 1998.

He continues to work vigorously on civil and human rights issues in Virginia. He is a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. In 2004, Harris' formerly segregated school, Carter G. Woodson, named a library in his honor.

Harris passed away on December 10, 2017 at age 93.

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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Reverend Curtis Harris's interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Reverend Curtis Harris describes his mother's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Reverend Curtis Harris talks about his father
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Reverend Curtis Harris talks about his father's absence during the first twelve years of his life
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Reverend Curtis Harris recalls meeting his father for the first time as a twelve-year old
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Reverend Curtis Harris talks about his grandparents
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Reverend Curtis Harris recalls his family's move to Hopewell, Virginia in the 1920s
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Reverend Curtis Harris describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Reverend Curtis Harris talks about his favorite childhood activities
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Reverend Curtis Harris describes his earliest childhood memory
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Reverend Curtis Harris lists his siblings
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Reverend Curtis Harris describes his childhood communities in Hopewell, Virginia
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Reverend Curtis Harris describes his elementary school years at Carter G. Woodson School in Hopewell, Virginia
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Reverend Curtis Harris describes the role of religion during his childhood in Hopewell, Virginia
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Reverend Curtis Harris talks about his interests and social life as a teenager at Carter G. Woodson School in Hopewell, Virginia
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Reverend Curtis Harris talks about his plans for studying pre-med courses at Virginia Union University in Richmond, Virginia
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Reverend Curtis Harris talks about moving to Norfolk, Virginia with his wife after dropping out of Virginia Union University in Richmond, Virginia
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Reverend Curtis Harris talks about working as a janitor for Allied Chemical and Dye Corporation in Hopewell, Virginia
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Reverend Curtis Harris talks about his experiences playing for the Hopewell All-Stars, a semi-pro baseball team
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Reverend Curtis Harris talks about how he rose to the role of pastor at Union Baptist Church in Hopewell, Virginia
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Reverend Curtis Harris talks about how he became involved with the Civil Rights Movement
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Reverend Curtis Harris remembers taking part in the Selma to Montgomery marches in 1965, pt. 1
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Reverend Curtis Harris remembers taking part in the Selma to Montgomery marches in 1965, pt. 2
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Reverend Curtis Harris recalls his experiences in the march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Reverend Curtis Harris talks about volunteering to be a human shield for the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during the Civil Rights Movement
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Reverend Curtis Harris talks about his attempts to run for the city council in Hopewell, Virginia from the 1960s to the 1980s
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Reverend Curtis Harris explains how he sued Hopewell, Virginia for racial discrimination in its city council districts in 1983
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Reverend Curtis Harris talks about being elected to the Hopewell City Council in 1984
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Reverend Curtis Harris describes his confrontation with the Boatwright Commission
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Reverend Curtis Harris recalls the struggle to integrate Hopewell High School in Hopewell, Virginia in 1964
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Reverend Curtis Harris describes his campaign against discrimination at the U.S. Army base at Fort Lee, Virginia
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Reverend Curtis Harris recalls the reaction from the U.S. military to his protests at Fort Lee, Virginia
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Reverend Curtis Harris details his efforts to construct a memorial for Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Hopewell, Virginia
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Reverend Curtis Harris reflects on his life in Hopewell, Virginia
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Reverend Curtis Harris talks about the history of school desegregation since Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka in 1954
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Reverend Curtis Harris describes how he would like to be remembered
  • Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Reverend Curtis Harris reflects upon his legacy
  • Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Reverend Curtis Harris narrates his photographs