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Janette Hoston Harris

City historian Dr. Janette Hoston Harris was born on September 7, 1939, in Monroe, Louisiana; her mother, Maud Marrie Hoston, was a homemaker and her father, Eluin Homer Hoston, was a printer and businessman who opened the first shoe store in Louisiana for African Americans, "Hoston's Shoes and Bootery." In 1956, Harris earned her high school diploma from Carroll High School in Monroe, Louisiana, where she was a member of the English and spelling bee clubs and the basketball team. From 1956 until 1960, Harris attended Southern University, where she was active in the Methodist club, a co-founder of Gamma Sigma Sigma sorority, and captain of the drill team. In 1960, during her senior year, Harris and six other students were arrested for attempting to desegregate an all-white lunch counter. The arrest resulted in her expulsion from Southern University and, by order of the governor, her being prohibited from attending any college in the state of Louisiana. Harris completed her education at Central State University in Ohio, where she earned her B.A. degree in psychology in 1962.

While attending Central State in 1960, Harris's case challenging segregation, "Hoston v. the State of Louisiana," went to the Louisiana Supreme Court. Harris's case eventually became part of a larger court challenge, "Garner v. Louisiana," that was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1961; the case was argued and won by future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall in 1962.

After her graduation, Harris worked in the selection division of the Peace Corps. From 1964 until 1970, Harris had a career in education, teaching second, fourth, fifth and sixth grades in Washington, D.C. public schools. From 1970 until 1972, Harris worked as a research associate for the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History. Harris earned her master's degree in history in 1972 from Howard University, and her Ph.D. degree in 1975. In 1975, Harris began teaching history at Federal City College, now known as the University of the District of Columbia. That same year she established a consulting firm, JOR Associates. From 1979 until 1980, Harris served as campaign manager for the Carter / Mondale Re-election Campaign. In 1991, Harris was appointed director of educational affairs for Washington, D.C., where she remained for a year. For the next three years, Harris served as director of the Office of Intergovernmental Relations in the Mayor's Office; in 1998, she was appointed city historian for Washington, D.C., the first person to hold the post.

Harris continued to serve as city historian; over the course of her career, she was the recipient of numerous awards for her civic and educational commitment. In 2004, Harris, along with her fellow sit-in students, was invited back to Southern University to receive the degree she was denied in 1960.

Dr. Janette Hoston Harris was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on August 10, 2004.

Accession Number

A2004.122

Sex

Female

Interview Date

8/10/2004

Last Name

Harris

Maker Category
Middle Name

Hoston

Occupation
Schools

Carroll High School

Southern University and Agricultural and Mechanical College

Central State University

Mt. Nebo

First Name

Janette

Birth City, State, Country

Monroe

HM ID

HAR09

Favorite Season

December

State

Louisiana

Favorite Vacation Destination

Puerto Rico

Favorite Quote

Each One Teach One.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Birth Date

9/7/1939

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Shrimp

Short Description

City historian Janette Hoston Harris (1939 - ) and six other students were arrested for attempting to desegregate an all-white lunch counter; the arrest resulted in her expulsion from Southern University, and by order of the governor, her being prohibited from attending any college in the state of Louisiana. Harris's case became part of the Supreme Court case, Garner v. Louisiana. Harris went on to become the first city historian for Washington, D.C.

Employment

United States Peace Corps

District of Columbia Public Schools

Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH)

Federal City College

JOR Associates

District of Columbia

Favorite Color

Green

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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Janette Hoston Harris's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Janette Hoston Harris lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Janette Hoston Harris describes her mother's background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Janette Hoston Harris describes her mother's background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Janette Hoston Harris talks about challenges her mother faced as a light-skinned African American woman

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Janette Hoston Harris describes her mother's activities and personality

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Janette Hoston Harris talks about her father's activism

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Janette Hoston Harris describes her father's shoe business

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Janette Hoston Harris talks about her maternal and paternal ancestry

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Janette Hoston Harris talks about her maternal and paternal grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Janette Hoston Harris describes her earliest childhood memories

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Janette Hoston Harris remembers holiday traditions during her childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Janette Hoston Harris describes daily life during her childhood in Monroe, Louisiana

Tape: 1 Story: 14 - Janette Hoston Harris lists her siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 15 - Janette Hoston Harris describes the community where she was raised in Monroe, Louisiana

Tape: 1 Story: 16 - Janette Hoston Harris recalls the sights, sounds and smells of growing up in Monroe, Louisiana

Tape: 1 Story: 17 - Janette Hoston Harris talks about her activism during her youth in the South

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Janette Hoston Harris describes her elementary school experiences at Mt. Nebo in Monroe, Louisiana

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Janette Hoston Harris describes her early aspirations

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Janette Hoston Harris describes her favorite childhood activities

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Janette Hoston Harris describes her first job as the accountant for a local cotton seller, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Janette Hoston Harris describes her first job as the accountant for a local cotton seller, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Janette Hoston Harris describes learning to defend herself in high school

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Janette Hoston Harris describes her aspirations of becoming a movie star

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Janette Hoston Harris descirbes her decision to attend Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Janette Hoston Harris recalls the impact of the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka ruling during her high school years

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Janette Hoston Harris names notable teachers and mentors at Carroll High School in Monroe, Louisiana

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Janette Hoston Harris describes her activities at Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Janette Hoston Harris describes leading demonstrations for better cafeteria food at Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Tape: 2 Story: 13 - Janette Hoston Harris recalls preparations for protesting segregation in solidarity with students from North Carolina A&T

Tape: 2 Story: 14 - Janette Hoston Harris describes her experience at the the sit-in at S. H. Kress department store in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Tape: 2 Story: 15 - Janette Hoston Harris describes her experiences in jail following the sit-in in which she participated in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Janette Hoston Harris describes her experiences in jail following the sit-in at S. H. Kress department store in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Janette Hoston Harris describes the NAACP's involvement in releasing the S. H. Kress & Co. Department Store sit-in participants from jail

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Janette Hoston Harris describes Southern University and Agricultural and Mechanical College's reaction to the student protests

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Janette Hoston Harris recalls her parents' reactions to her arrest for participating in a sit-in

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Janette Hoston Harris recalls her expulsion from Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Janette Hoston Harris describes the success of the 1961 U.S. Supreme Court case, Garner v. Louisiana

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Janette Hoston Harris recalls starting a youth chapter of the NAACP in Louisiana

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Janette Hoston Harris explains how she completed her undergraduate education at Central State College in Wilberforce, Ohio

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Janette Hoston Harris describes her move to Washington, D.C.

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Janette Hoston Harris explains how she came to work for the Peace Corps in 1964

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Janette Hoston Harris describes obtaining her master's degree and Ph.D. from Howard University in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 3 Story: 12 - Janette Hoston Harris describes returning to school with a husband and children

Tape: 3 Story: 13 - Janette Hoston Harris remembers her experiences as Washington, D.C. campaign manager for the Carter/Mondale re-election campaign in 1979

Tape: 3 Story: 14 - Janette Hoston Harris recalls her teaching experiences at Federal City College in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 3 Story: 15 - Janette Hoston Harris describes her work in HistoryMaker Sharon Pratt's executive office

Tape: 3 Story: 16 - Janette Hoston Harris reflects upon HistoryMaker Sharon Pratt's mayoral tenure

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Janette Hoston Harris talks about her accomplishments as city historian for Washington, D.C.

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Janette Hoston Harris talks about the Washington, D.C.'s history and its connection to African American history

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Janette Hoston Harris shares her goals as Washington, D.C.'s city historian

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Janette Hoston Harris reflects upon the impact of the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 1954 decision

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Janette Hoston Harris compares the educational experience at Carroll High School fifty years later with hers in the 1950s

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Janette Hoston Harris describes her experience attending the 2004 commencement at Southern University and Agricultural and Mechanical College in Baton Rouge, Louisiana for commencement

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Janette Hoston Harris reflects upon the impact of her sit-in participation in the early 1960s

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Janette Hoston Harris reflects upon the importance of learning about history

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Janette Hoston Harris reflects upon her life, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Janette Hoston Harris talks about her sister's decision to attend Central State College in Wilberforce, Ohio

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Janette Hoston Harris talks about the reasons for sharing her story

Tape: 4 Story: 12 - Janette Hoston Harris talks about the activism of younger generations

Tape: 4 Story: 13 - Janette Hoston Harris talks about her involvement in scholarship funds throughout Washington, D.C.

Tape: 4 Story: 14 - Janette Hoston Harris reflects upon her life, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 15 - Janette Hoston Harris talks about her involvement in Washington, D.C. social organizations

Tape: 4 Story: 16 - Janette Hoston Harris describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 4 Story: 17 - Janette Hoston Harris describes her hopes for the African American community

Tape: 4 Story: 18 - Janette Hoston Harris reflects upon her life, pt. 3

Tape: 4 Story: 19 - Janette Hoston Harris reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 4 Story: 20 - Janette Hoston Harris details her contributions to her community in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Janette Hoston Harris narrates her photographs, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Janette Hoston Harris narrates her photographs, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Janette Hoston Harris narrates her photographs, pt. 3

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$3

DAStory

14$3

DATitle
Janette Hoston Harris describes her experience at the the sit-in at S. H. Kress department store in Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Janette Hoston Harris talks about Southern University and Agricultural and Mechanical College's reaction to the student protests
Transcript
And how many of you were there?$$Seven of us. And they said, "Look, we're going to go to S. H. Kress [& Co.], you're going to go in and purchase something, make a purchase"--$$S. H. Kress was a department store?$$It's a five-and-dime.$$Uh-huh.$$So we went in there and we all purchased something. I purchased some cosmetics or whatever. Everybody purchased something. One guy purchased some socks and then we decided to sit down at the lunch counter and have something to eat. I ordered oh I think a cup of tea. And I didn't know I was sitting next to a manager, had no clue. And so I just sat there next to this guy he was turning red and red and redder, and I was smiling. You know, and I ordered this cup of tea. And then the woman said, oh she got so flustered she said, "Oh no--oh no, no, oh no, no." I said, "Oh yes, yes here's my money, I want a cup of tea." And so the manager sitting next to me never talked to me, he talked to her through me. He kept saying, tell her that she cannot be served here. And I said, well ask him why. And she said, well you'll have to go over there. There was a little curtain in the back, and we knew where the curtain was and this little round table and you buy your tea, your cup of tea or your sandwich, whatever it is and you go to the curtain and eat it over in the corner. Only two people or three people could stand there at a time. A small table, tall table. And I said, "No," I said, "we're not going over there." I said, "We're going to eat right here." And she said, "He says, you cannot eat here." I said, "Tell him we can, 'cause we are customers. We just made some purchases and we can eat here, this is for customers am I correct?" And some man came out the back and said, "You cannot eat here, you have to leave, you have to leave. You causing trouble." "We're not causing any trouble. We're not disturbing the peace. We're sitting like everybody else. We dressed nicely just like he is," you know. We had on our little outfits and we're students. So he said if we don't leave they going to call the police and we just sat there and they didn't want to bring us our tea. I said, "I'd like to have my cup of tea," which never came. And the paddy wagon came and the police came in, you know, with the big stick on his shoulder, his arm on his other hip and he's walking all, you know, very in control.$$And what were you feeling at that moment, what were you thinking?$$I said, oh well we going to get our heads cracked in today. Because he kept holding his stick and the other guy was on me, I said, "Well this is our day." I said, "We might not get back home." He said, "Yeah I know." And we just sitting there, you know, wondering what's going to happen next. Again, he kept fidgeting with the stick, you know. So I just thought he was going to crack us across the head. But he says, "Get up you can't sit here." And we said, "Why." And he said because I, "The owner said you cannot." That's why I believe it was the owner. "The owner said you cannot sit here, that you're disturbing the peace." "But we're not disturbing the peace." He said, "Get up." By that time we decided we better get up. So (laughter) we got up. And they just ushered us right on out of the store into the paddy wagon--to the paddy wagon. One of the guys had--had a--has artificial leg. And so they were shoving him around 'cause he had to lift his leg up to walk, you know. They were shoving him around and moving him around. So we got in the paddy wagon and oh they drove us off, I mean fast and turning corners and turning corners. We were sliding--the seats in a paddy wagon are metal on the side. So we just sliding off and they did it on purpose, just turning real fast and we were falling off the seats--$When you got back on campus [Southern University and Agricultural and Mechanical College, Baton Rouge, Louisiana] what was the atmosphere like on campus?$$Oh, it was unbelievable. Southern had a population of ten thousand students, and six thousand must have been out on campus waiting for our return and standing around a huge yellow bus. So we all--they stood up on the bus. The women couldn't get up that high, but we were on the side of the bus and the men sit on top of the bus. And we addressed the student body. And told 'em what had happened. And the next morning the president [Dr. Felton Grandison Clark] wanted to see us. So we went to the president's house. And he said he had been told by the Board of--the Louisiana State Board of Education [sic. Louisiana Department of Education] that we were to be expelled from school. That we could no longer be students at Southern University. So we went back to our dormitories that whole day and they were plotting to get us out before the students knew we were leaving. We didn't know that, but my momma's [Maud Marrie Hoston] friend was on the switchboard, Mrs. Higgins [ph.]. And she heard the message that they had bought the train tickets and when it--as soon as it became dark they were gonna go get us where, from where--find out where we would be and put us on the train and send our bags later. And she called me and said, "Pack up as much as you can pack up and I'm going to send Rodney [ph.] to pick you up," that's her son. And Rodney came in a station wagon and picked me up, a little friends of my parents, and said get down on the floor, which I did. And put my bags and took me to her house. So they couldn't find me. Some of the others went other places. We all went some places, but we all decided we'd call and get--call Ms. Higgins and find out where each person was and we can come back together, and we did. And so they put us up and the NAACP [National Association for the Advancement of Colored People] put us up in a hotel down in Baton Rouge [Louisiana], and that's where we stayed. But we didn't come out until night. The NAACP and those persons would not meet with us until night, late at night.$$How come?$$They were afraid of what would happen to them. Because this first time this had ever happened in the State of Louisiana. Remember this is a first. So at nine o'clock at night, 9:30, they'd come get us in the car and we'd go to (unclear) basement and they would come and we'd meet and strategize. They'd go back to the hotel. The next day we'd go to court. There were all these court dates. The NAACP had to work with our lawyer, Johnnie Jones, to address the court. So we'd go sit in the court all day long to wait to be heard. And then we'd come back and eat and talk about where we were and then we'd go back at night and meet. So it was that kind, it was really--