A year ago, the California senator had surged to the front of a crowded field of candidates on the back of a series of strong debate performances – and a searing critique of her rival Joe Biden over race. By the end of 2019, however, her campaign was dead.
Now, with Mr Biden as the presumptive Democratic nominee, the 55-year-old has been chosen as the vice-presidential pick. Here’s a look at Kamala Harris, as she faces a different type of run for the White House. Who is Kamala Harris?
The California Democrat was born in Oakland, California, to two immigrant parents: an Indian-born mother and Jamaican-born father. After her parent’s divorce, Ms Harris was raised primarily by her Hindu single mother, Shyamala Gopalan Harris, a cancer researcher and civil rights activist.
She grew up engaged with her Indian heritage, joining her mother on visits to India, but Ms Harris has said that her mother adopted Oakland’s black culture, immersing her two daughters – Kamala and her younger sister Maya – within it.
“My mother understood very well that she was raising two black daughters,” she wrote in her autobiography The Truths We Hold. “She knew that her adopted homeland would see Maya and me as black girls and she was determined to make sure we would grow into confident, proud black women.” Senator Harris’ early years also included a brief period in Canada. When Ms Gopalan Harris took a job teaching at McGill University, Ms Harris and her younger sister Maya went with her, attending school in Montreal for five years.
She attended college in the US, spending four years at Howard University, one of the nation’s preeminent historically black colleges and universities, which she has described as among the most formative experiences of her life. Ms Harris says she’s always been comfortable with her identity and simply describes herself as “an American”.
In 2019, she told the Washington Post that politicians should not have to fit into compartments because of their color or background. “My point was: I am who I am. I’m good with it. You might need to figure it out, but I’m fine with it,” she said.