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Tags: civil rights movement

Jo Freeman Reviews Vice President Kamala Harris: Her Path to the White House


   
 
Vice President Kamala Harris: Her Path to the White House                                     VP Kamala Harris: Her Path to the White House
by Malaika Adero
New York: Sterling, 2021, 186 pages with 120 photos, $29.95 hardcover
 
If you like photos, you’ll love this book.  It is packed with some of the most striking photos of KH and her life that I have seen.
 
While it’s mostly photos, there is some text.  It has many of her own speeches, including her 2011 inaugural address as California Attorney General, her 2020 speech accepting the Democratic nomination, and several commencement addresses.  
 
The author provides some fascinating tidbits of information.  Where else can you read that Harris’ sorority sisters donated checks written for $19.08 to the Biden-Harris campaign, commemorating the founding of Alpha Kappa Alpha in 1908?  The author says that the Biden Victory Fund received more than 11,000 such checks, from an AKA membership of 300,000.
 
There are also some holes. The author is not familiar with Berkeley in the Sixties, even though it was very important to Harris’ parents, who were Cal graduate students at that time.  One striking photo shows her mother and a friend at what the caption says is a civil rights protest in Berkeley but without a specific date or place.  Since I was a Cal undergraduate during those years, and very active in the civil rights movement, I recognized the scene.  It was a small plaza at the southern entrance to the campus, where we put up our tables and passed out literature.  The photo does not depict a civil rights protest, though the signs on the tables clearly indicate that it was late Spring of 1963 during or after the Birmingham demonstrations.
 
The book raises lots of questions.  KH’s mother was a high caste Hindu but sent her daughters to a Christian church in nearby Oakland.  Why?  Both parents were active in the civil rights movement in Berkeley but KH chose electoral politics rather than radical politics.  I well remember the split in California during KH’s formative years, with radicals often denouncing those who pursued elective office as sell-outs.  Nor is there anything about her political mentors or her base.   Electoral politics requires money, contacts and name recognition.  Where did KH find these?
 
Given her international origins, one might expect her to study international affairs rather than go to a local law school and from there become a criminal prosecutor.  “Her path to the White House” must have been very curvey.
 
KH’s parents separated when she was eight.  She was raised by her mother.  Nonetheless, one gets the impression that KH saw herself as fundamentally a Black woman.  Although she visited her relatives in both India and Jamaica, this book paints those identities as more background than foreground.  Having participated in electoral politics in Brooklyn, where we have people from everywhere, I know that African-Americans and West Indians don’t like each other. Yet KH chose Black as her primary identity.
 
This is a gorgeous book, well suited to be a graduation present for a young woman of any color.  Buy it for the photos, not for the text.
  
Copyright © 2022 by Jo Freeman


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