The California senator is the first Black woman and first Indian American on either major party's presidential ticket

By Ashley Boucher
August 11, 2020 11:10 PM
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Kamala Harris
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Joe Biden named California Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate on Tuesday — making her the first Black woman and first Indian American on either major party's presidential ticket.

Following the announcement — in which the former Vice President called Harris a "fearless fighter" — Harris, 55, wrote on Twitter that Biden "can unify the American people because he's spent his life fighting for us. And as president, he'll build an America that lives up to our ideals."

"I'm honored to join him as our party's nominee for Vice President, and do what it takes to make him our Commander-in-Chief," she added. 

Born in Oakland, California, Harris spent time as a child in Northern California and in Montreal, Canada, where her mother — Dr. Shyamala Gopalan, a cancer researcher — taught at McGill University.

"My mother understood very well that she was raising two black daughters," Harris wrote in her memoirThe Truths We Hold, according to The Washington Post. "She knew that her adopted homeland would see Maya and me as black girls, and she was determined to make sure we would grow into confident, proud black women."

Kamala Harris
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Harris attended Howard University, where she was part of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, followed by law school in San Francisco.

In June, Harris told the New York Times that she is "a child of community that was often on the not-great end of law enforcement, in terms of profiling and abuse" — which inspired her decision to become a prosecutor.

"And the decision I made was, 'I’m going to try and go inside the system, where I don’t have to ask permission to change what needs to be changed,'" she said.

In fact, being a lawyer was something that Harris dreamed of since childhood, she told SF Gate in 2009.

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"A lawyer," she said when asked what she wanted to grow up to be. "They were the heroes growing up. They were the architects of the civil rights movement. I thought that that was the way you do good things and serve and achieve justice. It was pretty simple."

Harris served as the San Francisco District Attorney from 2004 to 2011 and was the California Attorney General from 2011 until 2017, when she became a California senator.

Joe Biden, Kamala Harris
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While Harris has one of the most progressive voting records in the Senate, she has faced criticism from her time in law enforcement as the San Francisco DA. Nonetheless, Harris has said she does not regret beginning her career as a prosecutor.

"I don’t regret it because I know we were able to make a change, but it certainly was not enough," she said in the New York Times June interview.

Last year, Harris ran her own campaign for president before dropping out of the race in December. She endorsed Biden in March, once there were no more women in the running.

Kamala Harris
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In a video on Twitter on March 8, Harris said that she was endorsing Biden "with great enthusiasm." She was also close friends with Biden's son Beau, who died in 2015 of brain cancer. He was Delaware's attorney general when she held the same position in California, and Harris wrote in her 2019 memoir that the duo "talked every day, sometimes multiple times a day," according to NBC News.

Harris has expressed her support for "reimagin[ing] what public safety looks like," saying in the June Times interview that "funding public schools, affordable housing, increased homeownership, job skill development, jobs, access to capital for those who want to start small businesses, or who are running small businesses in communities" all contribute to creating more safety.