2021 Lifetime Achievement Award - Alferdteen Harrison
Alferdteen Brown Harrison received the MHS Lifetime Achievement Award. She has had a very long and prominent career as an academic leader in the study, teaching, and preservation of Mississippi history and African-American history. Dr. Harrison returned to her native Mississippi in 1972 as a professor of history at Jackson State University, where she assisted Margaret Walker Alexander to promote and develop the Institute for the Study of the History, Life, and Culture of Black People-- established as an archive and museum dedicated to the preservation, interpretation, and dissemination of African American history and culture. After Margaret Walker Alexander’s retirement, the Institute was renamed The Margaret Walker Center in order to honor her academic and artistic legacy, and Dr. Harrison became its director. The Center is located in the 1903 Ayer Hall, JSU’s oldest building, the restoration of which may never have happened without Dr. Harrison’s tireless campaigning to raise grant funding and to keep the building’s historical significance ever before the university’s administration. Dr. Harrison’s activities were not limited to academia, since she also co-founded Mississippi’s first museum to focus on African Americans – the Smith Robertson Museum and Cultural Center in Jackson. She led efforts to have the neighborhood surrounding the Smith Robertson Museum, the Farrish Street Historic District, listed in the National Register of Historic Places and to save it from demolition by urban renewal programs. She also led and/or assisted efforts to preserve and rehabilitate other landmark structures in the district, such as the Alamo Theater and the Scott-Ford House. Further, Dr. Harrison personally rehabbed two historic Craftsman bungalows at her own expense. She was a founding member of the Mississippi Heritage Trust and for years served as one of Mississippi’s two Advisors to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. In 1991 she became the first African-American President of the Mississippi Historical Society.