Kamala Harris is making history. On Tuesday, presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden announced Harris as his vice presidential candidate for the 2020 presidential campaign, making her the first Black woman on a major party presidential ticket.
While the 55-year-old lawyer and politician gained national attention thanks to her pointed questioning of President Donald Trump’s administration officials during Senate hearings, she is, of course, much more. Read on for everything you should know about the history-making politician.
She was deeply influenced by her immigrant parents.
Harris grew up in Oakland, California, and is the eldest daughter of two immigrants. Her late mother, Shyamala Gopalan, was a breast cancer researcher who emigrated from India to pursue a doctorate in endocrinology at the University of California, Berkeley. Her father, Donald Harris, is a Stanford University emeritus professor of economics who emigrated from Jamaica in 1961 for graduate study in economics at UC Berkeley.
Harris’ parents divorced when she was 7 years old, and Gopalan died of colon cancer in 2009. Harris has talked a lot about the influence of her mother on her life.
Future vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris with her younger sister, Maya, and mother, Shyamala, outside their apartment on Milvia Street in Berkeley, 1970. pic.twitter.com/8JKCq53HWL
— John McMurtrie (@McMurtrieSF) August 11, 2020
“There is no title or honor on earth I’ll treasure more than to say I am Shyamala Gopalan Harris’ daughter,” she wrote in her 2019 book, The Truths We Hold. “That is the truth I hold dearest of all.”
During her appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon in June, she talked about protesting with her mom during the civil rights movement when she was still in a stroller.
“Here’s the thing, Jimmy, I was also raised — and this is what I strongly believe — there’s a big difference between charity and duty, OK?” she said about what she was taught growing up. “Charity is, ‘Oh, I got a little to give. Look at how great I am. I’m so benevolent. I’m just going to give. I’m charitable.’ And then there’s duty, which is really what I believe, which is that we have a duty to each other. … It is literally each of our responsibility, whether we feel like it or not … to participate and to see what we can do to lift up the condition of others.”
She graduated from Howard University and was in a sorority.
Harris attended Howard University in Washington, D.C., where she double majored in political science and economics. She talked about her education at a historically Black college in September 2019 in a full-page ad she put out in Texas Southern University’s student newspaper, noting that it had a “profound impact” on her life.
“I’ll always remember freshman orientation, walking into the auditorium and seeing hundreds of people — and everyone looked like me,” she wrote.
She also talked about the importance of being “constantly reminded you are young, gifted and Black,” and said that the experience prepared her for “a career in rooms where I was the only one who looked like me.”
“I know how important it is to center our voices in the conversation as we build an America we can all see ourselves in,” she wrote. During her senior year at Howard, Harris joined the Black sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha. “We danced on Friday nights and protested on Saturdays,” she said of her and her sorority sisters.
Harris went on to earn her Juris Doctor from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco in 1989.
She is a proud Black woman.
In a February 2019 interview with Charlamagne Tha God for The Breakfast Club, Harris talked about those questioning her ties to the Black community.
“I’m Black and I’m proud of being Black,” she said. “I was born Black. I will die Black and I’m not going to make excuses for anybody because they don’t understand.”
Last July, she also got candid about those questioning whether she was “Black enough” to represent the Black community during her appearance on the podcast Jemele Hill Is Unbothered.
“It is challenging … and to be honest with you, it is also hurtful,” she said. “For other people who can’t figure out am I ‘Black enough,’ I kinda feel like that’s their problem, not mine. Maybe they need to go back to school to figure it out. And maybe they need to learn about the African diaspora and maybe they need to learn about a number of other things.”
In August, she spoke at the Black Girls Lead 2020 conference and talked about those seeking to limit her ambition as a woman of color.
“There will be a resistance to your ambition, there will be people who say to you, ‘You are out of your lane,'” Harris said during the livestream. “They are burdened by only having the capacity to see what has always been instead of what can be. But don’t you let that burden you.”
She made a name for herself with her tough questioning on the Senate floor.
Clips of Harris questioning former attorney general Jeff Sessions, Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and CIA Director Gina Haspel, amid others on the floor of the Senate, have gone viral.
Can you think of any laws that give the government the power to make decisions about the male body?pic.twitter.com/lDcXPZ56hX
— Vice President Kamala Harris (@VP) September 6, 2018
Since the TL forgot they celebrated this video three years ago, I figured I’d bring this video back of Kamala Harris questioning Jeff Sessions. pic.twitter.com/qLowQd4LSs
— 👑 ŠïxŚīx 👑 (@RyanFrazier_) August 11, 2020
Sen. Kamala Harris asked Trump’s CIA pick Gina Haspel if torture is immoral — and Haspel completely avoided answering pic.twitter.com/5BemuMGKOk
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) May 10, 2018
— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) June 7, 2017
She was close to Biden’s late son, Beau.
Harris formed a friendship with Beau — who died of brain cancer in 2015 at the age of 46 — when he served as the Delaware attorney general while she was attorney general of California. Four years after his death, she shared a photo of the two together on Twitter.
“Beau Biden was my friend,” she wrote. “We were AGs together, and you couldn’t find a person who cared more deeply for his family, the nation he served, and the state of Delaware. Four years after his passing, I still miss him.”
Thinking of @JoeBiden, @DrBiden and the entire Biden family today. Beau Biden was my friend. We were AGs together, and you couldn’t find a person who cared more deeply for his family, the nation he served, and the state of Delaware. Four years after his passing, I still miss him. pic.twitter.com/b7lP3TwxYq
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) May 30, 2019
In Biden’s message announcing Harris as his vice presidential pick, he mentioned her close connection to Beau.
“They were both Attorneys General at the same time,” he wrote. “He had enormous respect for her and her work. I thought a lot about that as I made this decision. There is no one’s opinion I valued more than Beau’s and I’m proud to have Kamala standing with me on this campaign.”
She has the full support of Barack Obama.
Obama has long been a fan of Harris. During a 2013 fundraiser, he said of Harris, “You have to be careful to, first of all, say she is brilliant and she is dedicated and she is tough, and she is exactly what you’d want in anybody who is administering the law, and making sure that everybody is getting a fair shake.”
On Tuesday, Obama gave a lengthy statement on Biden’s decision to choose her as his running mate.
“Joe Biden nailed this decision,” he wrote. “By choosing Senator Kamala Harris as America’s next vice president, he’s underscored his own judgment and character. Reality shows us that these attributes are not optional in a president. They’re requirements of the job. And now Joe has an ideal partner to help him tackle the very real challenges America faces right now and in the years ahead.”
“I’ve known Senator Harris for a long time,” he added. “She is more than prepared for the job. She’s spent her career defending our Constitution and fighting for folks who need a fair shake. Her own life story is one that I and so many others can see ourselves in: a story that says that no matter where you come from, what you look like, how you worship, or who you love, there’s a place for you here. It’s a fundamentally American perspective, one that’s led us out of the hardest times before. And it’s a perspective we can all rally behind right now. Michelle and I couldn’t be more thrilled for Kamala, Doug, Cole, and Ella. This is a good day for our country. Now let’s go win this thing.”
I’ve known Senator @KamalaHarris for a long time. She is more than prepared for the job. She’s spent her career defending our Constitution and fighting for folks who need a fair shake. This is a good day for our country. Now let’s go win this thing. pic.twitter.com/duJhFhWp6g
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) August 11, 2020
Harris has no shortage of famous supporters. In July 2019, Scooter Braun threw a star-studded fundraiser for her, which was attended by Katy Perry, Ariana Grande, Demi Lovato and more.
A number of celebs also immediately took to social media on Tuesday to share their opinions on Biden’s choice and to congratulate Harris, including LeBron James, Whoopi Goldberg, Sharon Stone and more.
“Sen. Kamala Harris this is a great moment,” Goldberg tweeted. “Let’s take care of her and make sure we are supportive of her because this is a no nonsense race and she is ready. Go Kamala!!”
In June, Harris talked about potentially being asked by Biden to be his running mate in a Q&A with The New York Times.
“I’m going to tell you what I honestly and deeply believe. Joe Biden has got to win this election,” she said. “And I want him to choose whoever he believes, and whoever can help him win. Period. I know that sounds pretty coldblooded, but that’s where I am. He’ll make the best decision for him to win in November. And that’s the bottom line.”
Election Day is Nov. 3, 2020 — head over to Vote.org to register to vote and to get all the latest information.