Melissa Harris-Perry

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This article is about Melissa Harris-Perry. For her eponymous show, see Melissa Harris-Perry (TV series).
Melissa Harris-Perry
Born Melissa Victoria Harris
(1973-10-02) October 2, 1973 (age 41)
Seattle, Washington, U.S.
Residence New Orleans, Louisiana
Education Wake Forest University (B.A.)
Duke University (Ph.D.)
Occupation Professor, author
Religion Unitarian Universalist
Spouse(s) Dennis Lacewell (1999–2005)
James Perry (2010–present)
Children 2 daughters
Parent(s) William M. Harris Sr.
Diana Gray

Melissa Victoria Harris-Perry (born October 2, 1973; formerly known as Melissa Victoria Harris-Lacewell) is an American writer, professor, television host, and political commentator with a focus on African-American politics. Harris-Perry hosts the Melissa Harris-Perry weekend news and opinion television show on MSNBC. She is also a regular fill-in host on The Rachel Maddow Show as well as a professor of politics and international affairs at Wake Forest University, where she is the founding director of the Anna Julia Cooper Project on Gender, Race, and Politics in the South. Prior to this, she taught at Princeton University and the University of Chicago. She is also a regular columnist for the magazine The Nation, and the author of Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America.

Early life[edit]

Harris-Perry was born to a white mother and black father.[1] She was born in Seattle but grew up in Chesterfield County, Virginia, one of the counties adjoining the independent city of Richmond, Virginia attending Thomas Dale High School. Her father was the first dean of African-American Affairs at the University of Virginia.[2] Her mother, Diana Gray, taught at a community college and was working on her doctorate when they met. She went on to work for nonprofit organizations that provided services such as day-care centers, health care for people in rural communities and access to reproductive care for poor women.[3]

Harris-Perry graduated from Wake Forest University with a bachelor's degree in English and received a PhD in political science from Duke University. She also received an honorary doctorate from Meadville Lombard Theological School and studied theology at Union Theological Seminary in New York City.[4][5]


Harris-Perry's academic career began in the fall of 1999, where she rose from Assistant to Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago. After 7 years, and being lured by famed philosopher Dr. Cornel West, Perry left UChicago for Princeton University in 2006. She was offered a tenured joint appointment as an Associate Professor of Political Science and African-American Studies. Harris-Perry would remain in this position until she left in 2011,[6]after being denied a full professorship because of “questions about her work and an assessment of where she is” in her career, according to the Center's director at the time, Eddie S. Glaude Jr.[7] MSNBC announced on January 5, 2012 that Harris-Perry would host her own weekend show, which began airing on February 18, 2012.[8]

Harris-Perry has been both lauded and criticized by numerous political commentators for statements she has made on her program—including those related to collective parenting, the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, and abortion.[9][10][11] She tearfully apologized for a "photos of the year" segment on December 28, 2013 that made several jokes about a family picture featuring former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's family, including his adopted black grandson.[12][13][14]

On July 1 2014, Harris-Perry returned to her alma mater, Wake Forest University, as Presidential Chair Professor of Politics and International Affairs.[15] She is the founding director of the Anna Julia Cooper Project. [16][17]



  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ Williams, Michael Paul (February 6, 2011). "Chesterfield native, now MSNBC commentator, speaking at VCU". Richmond Times-Dispatch. Retrieved June 19, 2011. 
  3. ^ Pope, John (October 2, 2011). "New Orleans transplant has a life rich in politics, pedagogy". The Times-Picayune. 
  4. ^ "About Melissa Harris-Perry". 2011. Retrieved April 8, 2011. 
  5. ^ Levin, Anne (October 10, 2007). "From House to Home". U.S. 1 Newspaper. Retrieved June 19, 2011. 
  6. ^ Glickel, Jen. "Uncommon Interview- Melissa Harris-Lacewell". The Chicago Maroon. Retrieved 2/7/2015.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  7. ^ Plump, Wendy (February 12, 2012). "Princeton Center for African American Studies loses two high-profile figures, but gains renewed sense of purpose". The Times of Trenton. Retrieved October 8, 2012. 
  8. ^ Tommy Christopher (2012-01-05). "Melissa Harris-Perry To Host MSNBC Weekend Show Starting In February". Mediaite. Retrieved 2012-01-05. 
  9. ^ Freedlander, David (11 April 2013). "Melissa Harris-Perry and the Firestorm Over ‘Collective’ Parenting". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 10 December 2013. 
  10. ^ Poor, Jeff (26 May 2013). "MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry likens Guantanamo detainees to American slaves". The Daily Caller. Retrieved 10 December 2013. 
  11. ^ McMurry, Evan (21 July 2013). "MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry Dons Tampon Earrings To Protest Texas Abortion Bill". Mediaite. Retrieved 10 December 2013. 
  12. ^ Peter Grier (2013-12-31). "Melissa Harris-Perry Apologizes for Romney Grandchild Jokes". CS Monitor. Retrieved 2013-12-31. 
  13. ^ LoGiurato, =Brett (2014-01-02). "Here's Melissa Harris-Perry's Tearful Apology For The Controversial Segment On The Romneys' Black Grandchild". San Francisco, CA: SFGate. Retrieved 2014-01-06. 
  14. ^ Melissa Harris-Perry (2013-12-31). "An apology from Melissa Harris-Perry". MSNBC. Retrieved 2014-01-06. 
  15. ^ Melissa Harris-Perry to join faculty
  16. ^ "About Melissa". Retrieved 13 September 2014. 
  17. ^ Melissa Harris-Perry

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