kamala Harris Biography: The Woman Redefining Leadership in Politics

Kamala Harris was born on October 20, 1964 in Oakland, California. Her mother, Shyamala Gopalan, was a cancer researcher who immigrated from India. Her father, Donald Harris, was an economist who immigrated from Jamaica.

Details About Her Upbringing:

  • She was raised with both Indian and Jamaican cultural influences.
  • Her parents were active in the civil rights movement, which had an early influence on her life.
  • After her parents divorced when she was young, Harris’ mother raised her and her sister Maya in Berkeley, California.

Education and Early Career as a Prosecutor

Kamala Harris graduated from Howard University and then earned her law degree from the University of California, Hastings College of Law in 1989.

She started her career in the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office focusing on prosecuting child sexual assault cases.

Early Legal Career:

  • 1990-1998: Deputy District Attorney in Alameda County
  • 1998-2000: Managing Attorney of the Career Criminal Unit in San Francisco District Attorney’s Office
  • 2000-2003: Chief of the Community and Neighborhood Division in the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office
  • 2003-2011: District Attorney of San Francisco

As district attorney, Harris started a program aimed at helping first-time drug offenders find jobs and get high school diplomas.

Rise in California Politics

  • November 2010: Harris was elected as California’s first female African-American and first Asian-American state attorney general
  • 2014: She was reelected as attorney general

As attorney general, Harris obtained billions of dollars in relief for homeowners hit by the foreclosure crisis. She also prosecuted transnational gangs for trafficking guns, drugs, and human beings.

Becoming a U.S. Senator:

  • November 2016: Harris was elected as California’s junior senator, becoming the second African-American woman and first South Asian-American senator in history
  • 2017-present: Serves on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Select Committee on Intelligence, Committee on the Judiciary, and Committee on the Budget

In the Senate, Harris has supported healthcare reform, federal de-escalation policies, and pathways to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

Harris’ Presidential Campaign and Nomination as Vice President

  • January 2019: Harris announced her candidacy for president of the United States
  • December 2019: Harris withdrew from the race
  • Her campaign’s central themes were increasing wages for working families, expanding healthcare access, reforming criminal justice, and passing a middle-class tax cut

Though her presidential campaign eventually ended, Harris’ profile helped position her to become Joe Biden’s pick for vice president.

Becoming Vice President:

  • August 2020: Joe Biden selected Senator Harris as his vice presidential running mate
  • November 2020: The Biden-Harris ticket defeated incumbent Donald Trump in the general election
  • January 20, 2021: Harris was sworn in as Vice President of the United States, making history as the first woman, first African-American, and first Asian-American to hold the office

As vice president, Harris also serves as president of the Senate and oversaw the confirmation hearings of several cabinet secretaries.

Positions and Initiatives

Over her career, Kamala Harris has been focused on issues such as criminal justice reform, immigration reform, healthcare access, climate policy, and women’s rights. Here is a summary of some of her major policy positions and initiatives.

Criminal Justice Reform

As a prosecutor and senator, Kamala Harris pushed for several reforms to the criminal justice system:

  • Eliminating mandatory minimum sentencing
  • Legalizing marijuana use
  • Banning chokeholds and anti-lynching legislation
  • Police accountability and creating national standards for use of deadly force
  • Eliminating private prisons and forced inmate labor
  • Ending cash bail system

“We must speak the truth: From mass incarceration to police accountability to juvenile justice, we need to make the system fair and just for everyone,” said Senator Harris.

Immigration Reform

Harris supports several policy changes regarding immigration, including:

  • Creating a pathway to citizenship for the 11+ million undocumented immigrants
  • Reinstating and expanding DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals)
  • Respecting legal humanitarian migration and keeping families together
  • Increasing oversight to Customs and Border Protection agency (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)

“It’s time we fix this broken system and uphold our values of equality and opportunity for all,” Harris stated in regard to comprehensive immigration reform.

Healthcare Access

Kamala Harris’ healthcare policy positions focus on achieving universal healthcare coverage:

  • Strengthening the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by increasing subsidies and expanding Medicaid
  • Allowing all Americans to buy into Medicaid or a public option like Medicare
  • Implementing comprehensive healthcare reform for everyone to have coverage

Harris believes no one should lose health coverage due to circumstances like changing jobs, divorce, relocation, or aging off parents’ insurance plans.

Climate Change Policies

To address climate change, Harris advocates for:

  • Reversing President Trump’s environmental policies on fuel emissions standards
  • Rejoining the Paris Climate Accords agreement
  • Establishing national standards for transitioning utilities to carbon-neutral energy

She also has proposed climate equity policies aimed at helping marginalized communities hardest hit by pollution and extreme weather events.

Women’s Rights Issues

On issues impacting women’s rights, Senator Harris has focused policies like:

  • Protecting women’s reproductive rights and repealing abortion restrictions
  • Passing the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to put gender equality protections into the U.S. Constitution
  • Closing the gender pay gap by requiring large corporations to obtain an “Equal Pay Certification”

Vice President Harris has made women’s rights a centerpiece of her policy agenda. “We will not go backwards when it comes to women’s rights and freedom,” Harris said at a 2019 town hall meeting.

Here is a summary of Kamala Harris’ key initiatives over her career:

Back on Track ProgramA re-entry program Harris created as DA for first-time, low-level drug offenders to get GEDs and jobs
Homeowner Bill of RightsSecured $20 billion in mortgage relief for Californians as state attorney general during foreclosure crisis
Free School Meals InitiativeAs a senator, introduced legislation to provide free breakfast, lunch and dinner for K-12 students with high-poverty rates
Black Maternal Health Momnibus ActAuthored this 2021 legislation to provide $60 million to reduce racial disparities in maternal healthcare
Disaster Relief LegislationAuthored multiple bills as senator to provide funding and assistance for wildfires and pandemic recovery efforts in California


In conclusion, Kamala Harris has dedicated her career to public service with a strong record as a district attorney and state attorney general before her history-making roles as U.S. senator, vice presidential candidate, and now the first woman Vice President.

Throughout her time in state and federal government, Harris has focused her efforts on reforming the criminal justice system, expanding healthcare access, advancing women’s and civil rights, addressing climate change, helping homeowners hurt by the foreclosure crisis, and providing economic relief for working families and students.

While she encountered both praise and criticism during her tenures as a tough prosecutor, her supporters have cited her efforts to make the system fairer. As Vice President under Joe Biden, Harris now has an even bigger platform to pursue her policy priorities around issues like pandemic recovery, immigration reform, racial justice, climate change policies, healthcare access, and criminal justice reform.

At only 56 years old, Harris also represents the next generation of political leadership. This has led many political observers to view her as a likely future presidential candidate, perhaps as early as the 2024 election. If Biden chooses not to seek re-election, Harris would immediately become the frontrunner given her high-profile role as vice president.

Regardless of what her future holds, there’s no denying Kamala Harris has already cemented a groundbreaking legacy in American political history. As a pioneer for women and people of color in government, Harris told students at Howard University: “I am who I am because of the people who came before me.” In turn, her barrier-breaking journey as district attorney, attorney general, senator, and now Madam Vice President will inspire generations to come.

Frequently Asked Questions About Kamala Harris

What ethnicity is Kamala Harris?

Kamala Harris is of both Indian and Jamaican descent. Her mother Shyamala Gopalan was from Chennai, India, while her father Donald Harris immigrated from Jamaica.

What ethnicity is Kamala Harris?

Kamala Harris is of both Indian and Jamaican descent. Her mother Shyamala Gopalan was from Chennai, India, while her father Donald Harris immigrated from Jamaica.

Where did Kamala Harris attend college?

In 1986, Kamala Harris graduated from Howard University in Washington, D.C where she earned a degree in political science and economics. She then attended law school at the University of California, Hastings where she received her Juris Doctor degree in 1989.

What was Kamala Harris’ first job?

Kamala Harris’ first job out of law school was as a deputy district attorney in Alameda County, California. She joined the D.A’s office in 1990 working in the Career Criminal Unit, where she prosecuted homicide and sexual assault cases.

When was Kamala Harris elected California Attorney General?

Kamala Harris was elected as California Attorney General in November 2010. She was sworn in as California’s first female, first African-American, and first Asian-American attorney general in January 2011.

How long did Kamala Harris serve as a Senator?

Kamala Harris served as a U.S. Senator representing California for 4 years from January 2017 to January 2021. She was California’s junior senator serving alongside Senator Dianne Feinstein.