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Politician & Activist

Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris is an American lawyer and politician serving as the junior United States Senator from California since 2017.

A member of the Democratic Party, she previously served as the 27th District Attorney of San Francisco from 2004 to 2011 and 32nd Attorney General of California from 2011 until 2017.

  • Full name: Kamala Devi Harris
  • Profession: American politician
  • Born: 20 October 1964 (age 55 years), Oakland, California, United States
  • Nationality: American
  • Height: 1.57 m
  • Spouse: Douglas Emhoff (m. 2014)
  • Parents: Donald Harris, Shyamala Gopalan Harris
  • Education: UC Hastings College of the Law (1989), Howard University (1986), Westmount High School
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About Kamala Harris

Kamala Devi Harris was born on 20 October 1964 in Oakland, California, United States. Her mother, Shyamala Gopalan, was a Tamil Indian breast-cancer scientist who immigrated to the United States from Madras, India, in 1960 to pursue a doctorate in endocrinology at the University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley).

Her father, Donald Harris, is a Stanford University economics professor who emigrated from Jamaica in 1961 for graduate study in economics at UC Berkeley.

Harris has one younger sister, Maya Harris. Her mother chose to give them both Sanskrit names derived from Hindu mythology to help preserve their cultural identity. She is also a descendant of a slave owner from Jamaica.

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She identifies as black and Indian but sees her experience primarily as American. Harris was raised in Berkeley, California.

She grew up attending both a Black Baptist church, where she and her sister sang in the choir, and a Hindu temple.

Her mother was an upper class Brahmin from the Besant Nagar neighbourhood of Chennai, Tamil Nadu, whose “Gopalan” bloodline can be traced over 1,000 years.

Shyamala was described as a “feminist concerned that the women who did her laundry were the victims of domestic violence.”

As a child, Harris used to visit her extended family in Chennai and was reportedly quite close to her maternal grandfather P. V. Gopalan, who was an Indian diplomat.

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Harris began kindergarten during the second year of Berkeley’s school desegregation busing program, which adopted the extensive use of busing to attempt to bring racial balance to each of the city’s public schools; a bus drove her to a school which, two years prior, had been 95% white.

Harris’ parents divorced when she was seven, and her mother was granted custody of Harris and her sister.

After the divorce, when she and her sister would visit their father in Palo Alto on the weekends, she stated that neighbours’ kids were not allowed to play with them because they were black.

When Harris was 12, she and her sister moved with their mother to Montreal, Quebec, Canada, where she had accepted a position doing research at Jewish General Hospital and teaching at McGill University.

She was a popular student at Westmount High School in Westmount, Quebec. As a teenager, Harris co-founded a small dance troupe of six dancers that played at community centres and fundraisers.

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Harris graduated from high school in 1981. She went on to Howard University in Washington, D.C. where she double-majored in political science and economics, was elected to the liberal-arts student council, was on the debate team, organized mentor programs for local youth, demonstrated against apartheid, and joined Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority.

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Harris returned to California, where in 1989 she earned her Juris Doctor (J.D.) from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco.

She was admitted to the State Bar of California in 1990. Believing the world needed “more socially aware prosecutors,” Harris decided to seek a career in law enforcement because she wanted to be “at the table where decisions are made”.

Career

Harris was born in Oakland, California, and is a graduate of Howard University and University of California, Hastings College of the Law.

In the 1990s, she worked in the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office and the City Attorney of San Francisco’s office. In 2004, she was elected District Attorney of San Francisco.

Harris won the election as California’s Attorney General in 2010 and was re-elected in 2014 by a wide margin.

On November 8, 2016, she defeated Loretta Sanchez in the 2016 Senate election to succeed outgoing Senator Barbara Boxer, becoming California’s third female U.S. Senator, and the first of either Jamaican or Indian ancestry.

Since becoming a senator, she has supported single-payer healthcare, federal descheduling of cannabis, a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, the DREAM Act, a ban on assault rifles, and lowering the tax burden for the working and middle classes while raising taxes on corporations and the wealthiest one percent of Americans.

She ran as a candidate for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States in the 2020 election, before ending her campaign on December 3, 2019.