Vice President Harris was born in Oakland, California to parents who emigrated from India and Jamaica. She graduated from Howard University and the University of California, Hastings College of Law.
“My mother would look at me and she’d say, ‘Kamala, you may be the first to do many things, but make sure you are not the last.’”
Kamala Harris, January 28, 2019
Vice President Harris and her sister, Maya Harris, were inspired by their mother, Shyamala Gopalan. Gopalan, a breast cancer scientist and pioneer in her own right, received her doctorate the same year Vice President Harris was born.
Her parents were activists, instilling Vice President Harris with a strong sense of justice. They brought her to civil rights demonstrations and introduced role models—ranging from Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall to civil rights leader Constance Baker Motley—whose work motivated her to become a prosecutor.
Growing up, Vice President Harris was surrounded by a diverse community and extended family. In 2014, she married Douglas Emhoff. They have a large blended family that includes their children, Ella and Cole.
Throughout her career, the Vice President has been guided by the words she spoke the first time she stood up in court: Kamala Harris, for the people.
In 1990, Vice President Harris joined the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office where she specialized in prosecuting child sexual assault cases. She then served as a managing attorney in the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office and later was chief of the Division on Children and Families for the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office.
She was elected District Attorney of San Francisco in 2003. In that role, Vice President Harris created a ground-breaking program to provide first-time drug offenders with the opportunity to earn a high school degree and find employment. The program was designated as a national model of innovation for law enforcement by the United States Department of Justice.
In 2010, Vice President Harris was elected California’s Attorney General and oversaw the largest state justice department in the United States. She established the state’s first Bureau of Children’s Justice and instituted several first-of-their-kind reforms that ensured greater transparency and accountability in the criminal justice system.