From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Harris, Deanie Simms

(born: November 6, 1846  -  died: May 15, 1928) 

Deanie Simms Harris is remembered as one of the first African American teachers in the middle section of Tennessee. She was born in Wallonia, KY, in Trigg County where she was enslaved. In her obituary, it was estimated that Deanie Simms came to Tennessee around 1870. Her mother's name is not listed on her death certificate. It is not known when Deanie Simms became separated from her mother.

It was the slave owner's wife or another female relative who taught Deanie to read and write. After gaining her freedom, Deanie Simms came to Tennessee where she completed the normal school course at Fisk University Model School, Class A. Her name is listed on p.12 of the Catalogue of the Officers and Students of Fisk University, 1871-1872 (Ancestry). With the completion of the normal course, Deanie Simms became a teacher and taught school in Tennessee for 50 or more years. 

She was the wife of William H. Harris. The couple married in Clarksville, TN, in 1878, according to the Montgomery County, TN, Marriage Index (Ancestry). Their family is enumerated in the 1900 U.S. Census with a son and three daughters. In the 1910 U.S. Census, Deanie Harris is enumerated as a trained nurse working for a private family. Her name is also included among the recognized African American nurses in Clarksville, TN [source: "Black individuals have excelled in medicine, sports," The Leaf-Chronicle (Clarksville, TN), 02/13/1994, p.20]. 

Not much is known about Deanie Simms Harris' family in Kentucky. Samuel Watkins of Jackson, TN, is namd as her brother on p.6 of the Nashville Globe, 08/06/1909. He had come to Clarksville to visit his sister. According to her death record in Ancestry, Deanie Simms Harris was the daughter of George Simms. She died in Knoxville, TN, at her daughter's home. She is buried in Clarksville, TN.

For more see Mrs. D. Harris in "The Colored Institute," The Chronicle (Clarksville, TN), 07/21/1883, p.2; "Well-known nurse dies in Knoxville," Clarksville Leaf=Chronicle, 05/16/1928, p.3; "Pioneer teacher in Tennessee passes," The Black Dispatch (Oklahoma), 06/07/1928, p.5; Deanie Harris, Death Certificate Registered #769, State of Tennessee (Ancestry).

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Trigg County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Wallonia, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Outside Kentucky Place Name

Item Relations

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Harris, Deanie Simms,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed July 13, 2024,

Last modified: 2023-09-02 14:21:00