While campaigning for president, California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris said she’d look into reparations for slavery. Now the running mate to presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden might have a chance to tackle reparations.
According to Harris’ father Donald Harris, a retired Stanford University economics professor, the Harris family descends from a 19th-century slave owner, Hamilton Brown.
“My roots go back, within my lifetime, to my paternal grandmother Miss Chrishy (née Christiana Brown, descendant of Hamilton Brown who is on record as plantation and slave owner and founder of Brown’s Town) and to my maternal grandmother Miss Iris (née Iris Finegan, farmer and educator, from Aenon Town and Inverness, ancestry unknown to me). The Harris name comes from my paternal grandfather Joseph Alexander Harris, land-owner and agricultural ‘produce’ exporter,” Harris allegedly wrote in an article for Jamaica Global, according to Snopes.
Brown owned multiple plantations throughout the 19th-century, even going so far as to say slaves were “comfortable” in Jamaica, according to a pamphlet from 1832 entitled “Three months in Jamaica” that documented life on sugar plantations. Brown also advocated against the abolition of slavery, per Snopes.
Donald Harris’ claims remain unproven with no verifiable information supporting the claim that the Harris family descended from Hamilton Brown.
“A whopping 35 percent of all African-American men descend from a white male ancestor who fathered a mulatto child sometime in the slavery era, most probably from rape or coerced sexuality,” Henry Louis Gates Jr., a historian and top professor at Harvard University, has said. “In other words, if we tested the DNA of all of the black men in the NBA, for instance, just over one-third descend from a white second or third great-grandfather.”
Kamala Harris has voiced her support for studying reparations for black Americans impacted by the effects of slavery and racial discrimination, but says she’s not sure what exactly those reparations would look like. (RELATED: Biden Picks Kamala Harris To Be His Vice Presidential Nominee)
“This stuff needs to be studied, because America needs a history lesson, and to be honest about it, and we need to study it in a way that we are having a very comprehensive and fact-based conversation about policies and the connection between those policies and harm if we’re going to have a productive conversation. It can’t just be, ‘Hey…write some checks’,” said Kamala Harris while speaking in Iowa in 2019, according to The Des Moines Register.
Correction: This post has been updated to make clear that while descending from a slave owner, nearly 35 percent of black Americans have descended from slave owners in some regard.