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Meet Kamala Harris, the First Black Female VP Candidate in U.S. History

Harris
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) introduces Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden at a campaign rally March 9, 2020 in Detroit, Michigan. Scott Olson/Getty Images

"That day when a little girl from Oaktown became the first black woman to be a major-party vice-presidential nominee..." When lawyer Maya Harris tweeted that congratulatory sentiment, she succinctly summed up the pride and historical significance of her sister's triumph. On Aug. 11, 2020, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden officially announced California Sen. Kamala Harris as his vice presidential running mate for the 2020 presidential election.

Not only does the move mean Harris (Biden's former opponent in the race) will bolster the democratic ticket with decades of experience, but it makes her the third woman in history (and first Black woman and first Asian American woman) to be nominated for vice president by a major political party.

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Harris' Early Life

Born in Oakland, California on Oct. 20, 1964, Kamala Devi Harris had two major role models from the start: Her mother, Shyamala Gopalan (whom Harris has described as the most important influence on her life) was a breast cancer researcher from India, and her father, Donald Harris, immigrated to the United States from Jamaica and worked as an economics professor at Stanford University. Her parents met during graduate school at UC Berkeley while attending political protests, and although they divorced when Harris was a child, both are said to have had a significant influence on her professional trajectory and political leanings. (Gopalan died from colon cancer in 2009 and Harris retired early from Stanford in 1998 and has since worked as a researcher and economic consultant for the Jamaican government.)

Harris earned her undergraduate degree from Howard University in 1986 and her law degree from the University of California, Hastings three years later. She then kicked off her career in the Alameda County district attorney's office and worked as an Oakland deputy district attorney from 1990 to 1998. In that role, she garnered a reputation for being tough on issues like gang violence, drug trafficking and sexual abuse.

In 2003, she became the district attorney of the City and County of San Francisco, and six years and two terms later, was elected attorney general of California by a margin of less than 1 percent. The narrow win made history as Harris became the first female and the first Black person to hold the post.

One of Harris' hallmark moves during her time as attorney general was refusing to defend Proposition 8, the 2008 California ballot measure that banned same-sex marriage in the state and was later deemed unconstitutional in federal court. In 2013, Harris officiated the first same-sex marriage in California shortly after the federal appeals court decision.

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Harris Makes History as Senator

In November 2016, Harris defeated Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez for a seat in the U.S. Senate, becoming the second Black woman and the first South Asian American ever to enter the legislative branch. She's been a part of the chamber's Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Select Committee on Intelligence, Committee on the Judiciary and Committee on the Budget. Harris has also become known for her support of a single-payer health care system and has introduced legislation to increase outdoor recreation site access in urban areas and to provide financial relief to those facing rising housing costs.

In 2017, Harris made headlines while serving on the Judiciary Committee for her rapid-fire and pointed questioning of then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions and again in 2018 for "grilling" Supreme Court Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

In 2019, Harris published her memoir, "The Truths We Hold: An American Journey", and soon after announced that she was seeking the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. She dropped out of the race in September 2019, at which point Biden said he would "of course" consider her as his running mate.

"Senator Harris has the capacity to be anything she wants to be," Biden said last December. "She is solid. She can be president someday herself. She can be the vice president. She can go on to be a Supreme Court justice. She can be an attorney general. I mean, she has enormous capability."

Today, Biden tweeted:

In response, Harris herself tweeted:

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