Kamala Harris has made history as the first Black woman elected as vice president of the United States, shattering barriers that have kept men — almost all of them white — entrenched at the highest levels of American politics for more than two centuries.
The 56-year-old California senator, also the first person of South Asian descent elected to the vice presidency, represents the multiculturalism that defines America but is largely absent from Washington’s power centers. Her Black identity has allowed her to speak in personal terms in a year of reckoning over police brutality and systemic racism. As the highest-ranking woman ever elected in American government, her victory gives hope to women who were devastated by Hillary Clinton’s defeat four years ago.
Harris, 56, is the third woman to be named as a vice-presidential candidate for a major political party. She follows Geraldine Ferraro, who was chosen as Walter Mondale’s Democratic running mate in 1984, and Sarah Palin, who was named by John McCain as the Republican vice-presidential pick in 2008.
Here are some things to know about the projected vice president:
She’s a California native.
Born Oct. 20, 1964, in Oakland, California, Harris is the daughter of Donald Harris, a Stanford University economics professor who immigrated from Jamaica, and Shyamala Gopalan Harris, who was a cancer researcher and the daughter of an Indian diplomat. She has a sister named Maya, who is a public policy advocate.
She’s an HBCU grad.
Harris studied political science and economics at Howard University, a historically black university in Washington, D.C.. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1986, and earned her law degree from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law.
She’s an attorney.
Although she hasn’t practiced since she’s been in office as a senator, Harris was deputy district attorney in Oakland, California, from 1990 to 1998. While there, she specialized in prosecuting sexual assault cases involving children.
From 2004 to 2011, she was the 27th district attorney of San Francisco. She made history in 2010 when she was elected attorney general of California, becoming the first woman and first African American to win the position. She ran again in 2014 and was re-elected.
She’s an author.
Harris wrote “Smart on Crime: A Career Prosecutor’s Plan to Make Us Safer” in 2009. The book examined myths in the criminal justice system and solutions to improve approaches to fighting crime. Her memoir, “The Truths We Hold: An American Journey,” was released in January 2019, and examined the “core truths that unite us and the long struggle to discern what those truths are and how best to act upon them” in her own life and across the life of our country.
She’s a stepmother of two.
Harris married Doug Emhoff, a lawyer, in 2014, making her stepmother to his children from a previous marriage, Ella and Cole Emhoff.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.