Democratic VP nominee Kamala Harris comes from a family of lawyers and Stanford graduates. Meet the family.

Democratic VP nominee Kamala Harris comes from a family of lawyers and Stanford graduates. Meet the family.


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Kamala Harris with her husband and niece’s daughter. Mason Trinca/Getty Images
  • On Wednesday, Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence participated in the only vice presidential debate for the 2020 election cycle.

  • Born to immigrant parents from Jamaica and India, Harris is the first Black woman and the first Indian American woman to appear on a Democratic ticket.

  • We took a look at Harris’ extended family, which has five lawyers and several Stanford graduates.

  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Kamala Harris’ representatives did not immediately reply to Business Insider’s request for comment on this article.

On August 11, Joe Biden announced he had picked Kamala Harris as his running mate for the 2020 presidential election.

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris
Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images

Kamala Harris, 55, is a Democratic senator from California who serves on the Senate Judiciary, Intelligence, Security and Governmental Affairs, and Budget Committees. 

Prior to joining the Senate, she served as the District Attorney of San Francisco and the Attorney General of California between 2004 and 2017. 

During her time at the Senate, Harris has won praise for her famously fiery line of questioning during hearings. Prominent figures like Attorney General Bill Barr and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg have found themselves at the other end of her prosecutorial questions. 

Harris launched her own bid for President in 2019 before ending her campaign in December due to a lack of sufficient funding.

Harris and her younger sister Maya were raised by their late mother, Shyamala Gopalan Harris.

Democratic presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), her husband Douglas Emhoff and her sister Maya Harris prior to her delivering a campaign speech at the Des Moines Register Political Soapbox at the Iowa State Fair on August 10, 2019 in Des Moines, Iowa. 22 of the 23 politicians seeking the Democratic Party presidential nomination will be visiting the fair this week, six months ahead of the all-important Iowa caucuses.
Kamala Harris’ sister Maya (left) and Kamala Harris (center). Alex Wong/Getty Images

 

When news broke that Joe Biden had picked Harris as his running mate for the 2020 election, Maya shared a moving tweet of Harris talking about their late mother. “You can’t know who @KamalaHarris is without knowing who our mother was. Missing her terribly, but know she and the ancestors are smiling today,” she wrote. 

Shyamala Gopalan Harris, the daughter of an Indian diplomat, moved to the US from India in the 60s to attend the University of California, Berkeley, to study nutrition and endocrinology

Gopalan Harris spent her career in cancer research and worked at a number of different institutions, including McGill University and the University of Illinois. Per Forbes, some of her most important work was in breast cancer research.

She died of colon cancer in 2009 a few months after she turned 70. “One of the last questions she asked the hospice nurse was, ‘Are my daughters going to be O.K.?’ She was focused on being our mother until the very end,” Harris wrote in a New York Times op-ed.

“There was never a question that they were Indian. I don’t think she felt conflicted about it. She told the girls, ‘You are Indian; you are [B]lack. You don’t have to prove that you’re one or the other,'” a family relative told the Los Angeles Times.

Donald Harris, Harris’ father, was a professor of economics at Stanford University for over two decades before retiring in 1998.

Donald J. Harris
Kamala Harris’ father, Donald Harris, was an academic. Courtesy of Donald J. Harris

Donald Harris was born and raised in Jamaica and moved to the US in the 1960s to study economics at the University of California, Berkeley. There, he met Harris’ mother, Shyamala Gopalan Harris, during campus protests.

Gopalan Harris and Donald separated when Harris was 5 and divorced when she was 7. Casey Tolan wrote for Mercury News that Harris’ mother had primary custody over her two daughters. The girls saw their father during vacations. 

Tolan describes Donald as a “retired leftist Stanford economics professor from Jamaica who studied issues such as income inequality.” The report also references a 1976 op-ed in the university paper that describes him as “too charismatic” and “a pied piper” to his students.

Per his Stanford page, Donald has worked extensively on the economy of Jamaica and has acted as a consultant to the country’s government. He is a naturalized US citizen. 

In a February 2019 appearance on the radio show The Breakfast Club, show host Charlamagne tha God asked Harris if she opposed marijuana legalization to which she responded, “Half my family’s from Jamaica. Are you kidding me?” 

In response to her answer, Donald published a comment in Jamaica Global Online saying, “My dear departed grandmothers (whose extraordinary legacy I described in a recent essay on this website), as well as my deceased parents, must be turning in their grave right now to see their family’s name, reputation and proud Jamaican identity being connected, in any way, jokingly or not with the fraudulent stereotype of a pot-smoking joy seeker and in the pursuit of identity politics.”

Harris has been married to lawyer Douglas Emhoff since 2014.

Kamala Harris Douglas Emhoff
Douglas Emhoff and Kamala Harris attend the Vanity Fair Oscar Party in February 2015. Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic

Emhoff, a partner at DLA Piper, works in business, real estate, and intellectual-property law representing both companies and individuals.

The couple met on a blind date and live in Los Angeles.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the couple lives in the Brentwood neighborhood of Los Angeles and owns homes in San Francisco and Washington DC. Zillow and WSJ estimates place the cumulative value of the properties at $8 million. 

Through Emhoff, Harris has two stepchildren — Cole and Ella, both in their 20s, who call her “momala.”

Cole graduated from Colorado College in 2017, according to O Magazine; Ella is studying apparel and textiles at New York City’s Parsons School of Design.

Harris’ younger sister, Maya, is a lawyer.

Maya Harris Kamala Harris
Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA), with sister and advisor Maya Lakshmi Harris, right, as she prepares to speak to women of color in a packed banquet room during the Black Enterprise Women of Power Summit in Las Vegas, Nevada on March 1, 2019. Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Maya, who is younger than Harris by two years, has been a near-constant source of support for her older sister. She’s cheered Harris on both online and in numerous campaign rallies since Harris first announced she was running for president. 

Christopher Cadelago wrote for Politico in 2019 that “political types” view Maya as Harris’ Bobby Kennedy.

And 2020 isn’t the first go-around for Maya in a presidential election — she was a senior advisor to Hillary Clinton in 2016. She has also been involved with the Ford Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union in leadership roles, Yahoo News reported.

She edited the 2010 book “The New Jim Crow” and has worked as an analyst for MSNBC.

Maya shared that she has the auto-immune disease Lupus in an essay for The Atlantic, where she shared her personal experience of living with the disease and criticized President Trump for touting hydroxychloroquine as a cure for COVID-19. 

Maya is married to Tony West. He’s currently the chief legal officer at Uber.

Tony west
Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division of the Department of Justice Tony West during the Senate Judiciary hearing on health care fraud in 2009. Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images

Maya and West met at Stanford University in the late 1980s, although they didn’t start a relationship until after graduation.

Between 2009 and 2014, West served as assistant attorney general and associate attorney general at the civil division of the Obama administration’s Justice Department. 

In 2014, he joined PepsiCo’s general counsel.

According to West’s twitter profile, the couple lives in San Francisco, California. 

Maya’s daughter, Meena, is a Harvard and Stanford graduate. She started the clothing line “Phenomenal Woman” in 2017.

Meena Harris
Meena Harris attends the We Vote Next Summit event presented by Eighteen X 18 at TOMS Corporate Office on September 29, 2018, in Los Angeles, California. Paul Archuleta/Getty Images

Business Insider’s Dominic-Madori Davis previously reported that the goal of the clothing line, the name of which is inspired by Maya Angelou’s iconic poem, is to highlight social justice causes.

The project began shortly after President Trump’s 2017 inauguration with the release of t-shirts that had the words “phenomenal woman” plastered across the front. 

Meena, 35, published a book earlier this year titled “Kamala and Maya’s Big Idea,” based on a true story about Kamala and Maya building a play area for other children. 

According to her LinkedIn page, she has worked for tech companies including Slack, Uber, and Facebook, as well as for her aunt over in the years in various capacities. 

Meena is married to Nikolas Ajagu and they have two young daughters, ages four and two. Ajagu is currently the global head of advertising technology at Facebook, where Meena worked in the mid-2000s.

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