Dr. Trudier Harris is one of the foremost African American literary and cultural theorists of today, and before her current post as a professor in the College’s Department of English, she had a 30-year career with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her scholarly career has taken her all over the world, and she has been honored by numerous organizations for accomplishments. But her love of learning started on an 80-acre cotton farm in Greene County, AL.
The sixth of nine children, Harris said her parents had to work hard to make ends meet, and they always stressed the importance of education. Recalling her childhood, Harris said hard work was essential on the farm, but learning was considered the most important work of all.
“You’ve got to get something in your head, because they can’t take that away from you,” was a refrain Harris heard frequently from her mother, Unareed Burton Moore Harris.
When Harris was six, her father died. Her mother was the pillar that held the family up in hard times. With only a 10th grade education, Unareed Burton Moore Harris supported her family with any job she could find: elementary school cook, janitor, domestic worker.
“One thing that becomes clear to anyone who spends any time with me is that my mother was my greatest inspiration,” Harris said.
To extend her mother’s inspiration to future generations, she established the Terrell Harris Sr. and Unareed Burton Harris Endowed Scholarship at UA. “It was important to me that I, in my parents’ memory, provide resources to other young people who might have been in situations like we were and thus help them achieve their objectives,” she said.
Harris’s mother taught her that if much is given to you, then you need to give back. If you are interested in finding ways to give back, contact Kathy Yarbrough, director of development at firstname.lastname@example.org.