In Memoriam: Mary Turner Harper, 1935-2020

Mary T. Harper, an educator and the co-founder of the African American cultural center that later became the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture in Charlotte, North Carolina, passed earlier this month in Charlotte. She was 84 years old.

A native of Mount Pleasant, North Carolina, Harper attended public schools in the Greensboro area and went on to graduate from Livingstone College in Salisbury, North Carolina, with a bachelor’s degree in English. She earned a master’s degree in education from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and a Ph.D. from The Union Institute in Cincinnati, Ohio.

After teaching in the public schools, Dr. Turner joined the faculty at Barber-Scotia College in Concord, North Carolina, and Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte. In 1971, she was the first African American to join the English department at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

In 1974, Dr. Harper and Dr. Bertha Maxwell-Roddey founded what later became the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture. In 2014, Dr. Harper received the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, North Carolina’s top award.

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