Kamala Devi Harris is an American politician and lawyer who serves as the 49th Vice President of the United States. She is the first female Vice President of the United States, the highest ranking official in US history, and the first female African American Vice President in Asia.
Kamala Devi Harris was born in Oakland, California on October 20, 1964, the eldest of two children born to Shyamala Gopalan, a cancer researcher from India, and Donald Harris, an economist from Jamaica.
The vice president’s middle name, Davi, translates to “goddess” in Sanskrit, another tribute to the Hindu religion.
Her mother chose Kamala’s name as a nod both to her Indian roots—Kamala means “lotus” and is another name for the Hindu goddess Lakshmi—and the empowerment of women.
Hhen Kamala Harris was 13, Harris and her sister, Maya, led a demonstration in front of their Montreal apartment building in protest of the policy that banned children from playing on the lawn.
Kamala Harris’ parents divorced when she was 7, and her mother raised her and her sister, Maya, on the top floor of a yellow duplex in Berkeley.
While running as a Democratic candidate for president in 2019, Harris was the first to respond to Book Riot’s request for her favorite books and/or those that have been most influential in her life. She listed five: Native Son by Richard Wright, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan, Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis.
As a child, Harris went to both a Black Baptist church and a Hindu temple—embracing both her South Asian and Black identities.
Kamala Harris was a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority.
Kamala Harris visited India as a child and was heavily influenced by her grandfather, a high-ranking government official who fought for Indian independence, and grandmother, an activist who traveled the countryside teaching impoverished women about birth control.
In 2009, Harris, who was elected as San Francisco’s district attorney six years earlier, published her first book, Smart on Crime: A Career Prosecutor’s Plan to Make Us Safer, which focused on criminal justice reform.
Kamala Harris attended middle school and high school in Montreal after her mom got a teaching job at McGill University and a position as a cancer researcher at Jewish General Hospital.
In 2019, Kamala Harris released an illustrated children’s book, Superheroes Are Everywhere, which was geared toward readers aged three to seven.
After high school, Harris attended Howard University, the prestigious historically Black college in Washington, D.C.
From 2004 to 2010, Kamala Harris served as the first woman District Attorney in San Francisco’s history, and as the first African American woman and South Asian American woman in California to hold the office, according to the state’s Department of Justice.
Kamala Harris majored in political science and economics.
Prior to becoming President Biden’s running mate, Harris first met the former vice president through his late son, Beau, who died of brain cancer in 2015.
While attending law school in San Francisco, Harris lived with her sister, Maya, and helped potty-train Maya’s daughter.
In 1990, after passing the bar, Harris joined the Alameda County prosecutor’s office in Oakland as an assistant district attorney focusing on sex crimes.
When Kamala Harris and Doug Emhoff married in 2014, she officially became stepmom to his children, Cole and Ella (with film producer Kerstin Emhoff).
In 1994, Kamala Harris began dating Willie Brown, a powerhouse in California politics who was then the speaker of the state assembly and was 30 years older than Harris.
She’s also been a strong role model for her niece, Meena Harris, a Harvard-educated lawyer who published the children’s book, Kamala and Maya’s Big Idea, in early 2020.
After being recruited to the San Francisco District Attorney’s office by a former colleague in Alameda, Harris cracked down on teenage prostitution in the city, reorienting law enforcement’s approach to focus on the girls as victims rather than as criminals selling sex.
She was elected in a runoff with 56.5 percent of the vote. With her victory, she became the first Black woman in California to be elected district attorney.
During her first three years as district attorney, San Francisco’s conviction rate jumped from 52 to 67 percent.