Stewart was born in Greenwood, Mississippi, the daughter of Hattie Juanita and Thomas Harris. She has appeared in numerous TV shows and movies. Stewart taught at Jackson State University for 20 years—where she was crowned Ms. JSU 1969—in Jackson, Mississippi. She earned her PhD. from Florida State University in 1989 and taught Speech at Alabama State University. Stewart is currently the dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts at Alabama State University. She narrated the acclaimed Remembering Slavery radio program. Stewart is a member of Zeta Phi Beta sorority and has four adult children: Jannice, Allen Jr., Alesha, and Thomas.