Inside Kamala Harris’ Early Years and Multicultural Upbringing


The daughter of an Indian mother and a Jamaican father who moved to the United States to pursue their educational dreams, Kamala Harris’ story is the story of an increasingly multicultural America. Her trailblazing career, which saw her become the first woman, the first Black and the first South Asian America elected vice president, has its roots in the civil rights movement of the 1960s and 70s, and the family, friendships and communities that helped shape Harris’ life.

Harris’ parents traveled different, yet similar paths to the United States

Harris’ parents, Donald Harris and Shyamala Gopalan, were both born in 1938. Donald was the son of Afro-Jamaican parents, and he attended local schools before graduating from the University of the West Indies. He secured a prestigious scholarship to pursue advanced studies in economics and shocked his family and educators when he opted not to follow the path of previous scholarship recipients, who had remained within the sphere of the British Empire by studying in Britain. Instead, Donald applied to the University of California at Berkeley, fueled by accounts of students from the university who had traveled to the Jim Crow South in the early days of the civil rights movement.

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