Former Vice President Joe Biden has tapped U.S. Senator Kamala Harris—a Howard University graduate—to be his running mate in this year’s presidential election.
If elected, Harris—a seasoned California prosecutor—will make history as the first woman and first African American and South Asian to serve as vice president. She will also be the first graduate of a historically Black college or university to appear on a major political ticket.
Reaction to the selection of Harris was greeted with enthusiasm on Tuesday, particularly among Black political scientists who say that the selection of Harris represents a historic moment in time.
“100 years after women gained access to the franchise via the 19th Amendment and 55 years after the Voting Rights Act protected the vote for all Americans, Kamala Harris’s selection speaks to the tremendous potential to move closer to America’s promise,” said Dr. Khalilah Brown-Dean, an associate professor of political science at Quinnipiac University and the author of Identity Politics in the United States. “As a woman of African American and API descent, an HBCU graduate, and a member of an historically Black sorority, Harris represents the tremendous diversity that exists within communities. Now the task comes in addressing the myriad policy concerns that have been significantly heightened as the nation grapples with the dual pandemics of COVID-19 and racism.”
Dr. Melanye T. Price, an endowed professor of political science at Prairie View A&M University added that Biden’s decision to pick Harris “demonstrates the political power of Black women to the Democratic party,” a loyal and remaining voting bloc. “The fact that she is a Black woman and HBCU graduate makes this an historic nomination for which we should be proud,” said Price, who is the author of The Race Whisperer: Barack Obama and the Political Uses of Race. “We know from Senate hearings and early debates in the primaries that she will be a formidable debate challenger to Mike Pence and a problem for Donald Trump.”
Biden had faced enormous pressure to select a Black woman. Rev. Al Sharpton was among a group of prominent civil rights leaders who publicly argued that he wanted to see a Black woman on the ticket.
“He [Biden[ couldn’t have chosen a better teammate,” said Sharpton. “I used to be a youth coordinator for Shirley Chisholm and this is a great day for me. I know Shirley is smiling down.”
Harris has talked proudly of her experience of attending an HBCUs. Last year, she sat down with Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) President and CEO Dr. Harry L. Williams, and explained why she decided to attend Howard University.
“I always wanted to go to Howard,” said Harris, who launched her own 2020 presidential bid from the university before dropping out and endorsing Biden late last year. “I had family members who went to Howard. I heard the stories about Howard. Thurgood Marshall went to Howard and as a child, I wanted to be a lawyer.”