Top educators like Nikole Hannah-Jones and Ta-Nahesi Coates continue to join the esteemed ranks of HBCU faculty, and now Anthony J. Harris, Ed.D. is following suit. The renowned civil rights activist and author is heading to Prairie View A&M University! Learn more about him in the PVAMU release below.
A champion for social justice and active participant in the Civil Rights Movement joined the faculty at Prairie View A&M University (PVAMU) this month. Anthony J. Harris, Ed.D., was named chair of the Department of Educational Leadership and Counseling in the Whitlowe R. Green College of Education (WRGCOE).
“We find ourselves at a place of welcoming a proven leader,” WRGCOE Dean Michael L. McFrazier, Ed.D., said during a recent welcome reception for Harris, adding that the college is looking forward to “the innovation and change” Harris will help usher in.
“I won’t say they twisted my arm, but they made it so easy for me to say yes,” the Hattiesburg, Mississippi native said of members of the search committee.
Harris earned his doctorate in counseling from East Texas State University (now Texas A&M-Commerce), where he worked as an administrator and faculty member. He served as a school board member in the Commerce Independent School District for 15 years, six as chair. He most recently served as chair of the Department of Educational Leadership at Sam Houston State University and was previously an administrator and faculty member at Mercer University and the University of Southern Mississippi.
“I have published a total of 13 books across different genres – children’s books and my memoir about growing up in the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi. That’s one of the reasons I was so attracted to the opportunity to come to Prairie View A&M University – being a historically black college, being an 1876 university. I feel so at home here. I feel so welcome here. I feel like I am among family and kindred spirits.
In 2014, Harris was featured in a PBS documentary called Freedom Summer. The documentary, directed by Stanley Nelson Jr., chronicles the summer of 1964, during which white students and activists forced the country to notice the violence and injustice taking place in Mississippi. According to The Den, they held voter registration drives and set up schools to teach African American history and culture across the state.
“One of those was Freedom School,” Harris told the paper. “I was a student at Freedom School and participated in marches and demonstrations, although I was a kid.”
Some of Harris’ books detail these experiences, including “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me ‘Round: A Coming of age story and a personal account of the Civil Rights Movement in Hattiesburg, Mississippi” and “Fruits of a Disgraced Legacy.” His latest books, “Leading While Black: Challenges of Being an African American Leader in a Predominantly White Organization” and “More Adventures of Little Mikey,” will soon be available in paperback and e-version.
“I published my first book in 2012, and my 13th was published in 2021,” he said. “I thoroughly enjoy writing, which enables me to tap into that artistic and creative side of my persona. A quote from Dr. Maya Angelou keeps me writing and publishing books. She once said: ‘There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.’ So, I write because I have stories to tell, as we all do.
My books, whether fiction or non-fiction, focus on justice, education and equality. My hope is that readers will be moved by the lessons, characters and themes embedded in each book.”
Even with more than a dozen novels under his belt, Harris says these days, he’s most excited about beginning his journey on “The Hill” and getting to know his new students.
“Our students are the most important people. We are all important, but they are the reason we’re here,” he said. “As a faculty, we have to support one another. We have to support the mission of the department, college and university because Prairie View has a legacy that is the envy of so many colleges. The president here, Dr. Ruth Simmons, is so prominent and so well known throughout this country. I just feel honored to be on a campus working under her leadership.”
Harris said he gets a little spiritual about his new role, which began on July 1. “I just say God puts us where we are supposed to be. At this season in my life, I feel this is where I’m supposed to be.”