Jannie Harriot

Chairperson
South Carolina African American Heritage Commission
Purpose Prize Fellow 2009

Seeing black children disconnected from their heritage, Harriot set out to recognize and preserve the cultural richness and contributions of African Americans in South Carolina.

Seeing black children disconnected from their heritage, Harriot set out to recognize and preserve the cultural richness and contributions of African Americans in South Carolina.To Harriot, the accomplishments of black ancestors can powerfully affect black children: “School children are able to identify with their heritage and the contributions of their ancestors and feel a sense of pride and self-esteem. This self-esteem transfers into more successful students on many levels.” Harriot has helped bring inspirational history to children through the South Carolina African American Heritage Commission, which identifies and promotes the preservation of historic sites, structures, buildings, and culture demonstrating the African American experience in South Carolina. When Harriot became the commission’s chairperson in 2001, she focused on enhancing programming, developing funding sources, and increasing visibility through collaborations with state and local historical organizations and an aggressive public relations plan. In 2009 at age 66, Harriot became executive director of the foundation that raises money to support the commission’s efforts. (She still serves with the commission as vice chairperson.) Soon Harriot will publish a book chronicling the history of African American education in Hartsville, South Carolina, and her efforts to save her former high school in that town from commercial development.