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Harris, Kamala Devi  

Donna L. Halper

was born in Oakland, California, the older of two daughters of Donald Harris, an economics professor, and his then-wife Shyamala (Gopalan), a scientist and medical researcher. Her father was from Jamaica and her mother was from India; the two met in graduate school at the University of California at Berkeley, where both were active in the 1960s civil rights movement. As a child Kamala was taken to civil rights marches with her parents. She was also exposed to their religious traditions—her father’s Baptist Christian faith, and her mother’s Hinduism. Her name, which she pronounces COMMA-la, comes from the Sanskrit word for “lotus plant.”

Harris grew up in a predominantly Black working class neighborhood in Berkeley Her parents divorced when she was five and Kamala and her sister Maya were raised by their mother Although the two girls were biracial their mother understood that most people perceived them as Black Thus ...