Melissa Harris-Perry

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Melissa Harris-Perry
Harris-Perry in 2016.
Harris-Perry in 2016.
BornMelissa Victoria Harris
(1973-10-02) October 2, 1973 (age 49)
Seattle, Washington, U.S.
OccupationAuthor, political commentator, professor
EducationWake Forest University (BA)
Duke University (MA, PhD)
Columbia University
SubjectAmerican politics, race relations
SpouseDennis Lacewell (1999–2005)
James Perry (2010–present)
Children2 daughters

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 hosted the Melissa Harris-Perry weekend news and opinion television show on MSNBC from 2012 to February 27, 2016.

Early life[edit]

Harris-Perry was born to a white mother and black father.[1] She was born in Seattle and grew up in Chesterfield County, Virginia, one of the counties adjoining the independent city of Richmond, Virginia, where she attended Thomas Dale High School. Her father was the first dean of African-American Affairs at the University of Virginia.[2] Harris-Perry's mother, Diana Gray, taught at a community college and was working on her doctorate when they met. She worked for non-profit 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 earned a PhD in political science from Duke University. She received an honorary doctorate from Meadville Lombard Theological School, and is studying toward a Master of Divinity in theology at Union Theological Seminary of Columbia University.[4][5]


Harris-Perry joined the political science faculty of the University of Chicago in 1999 and taught there for seven years, until 2006, when she accepted a tenured appointment at Princeton University as an Associate Professor of Political Science and African-American Studies. Harris-Perry left Princeton in 2011 after being denied a full professorship[6][7] for Tulane University, where she was Founding Director of the Anna Julia Cooper Project, a center for the study of race, gender, and politics in the South.

On July 1, 2014, Harris-Perry returned to Wake Forest as the Maya Angelou Presidential Chair Professor of Politics and International Affairs.[8][9] The Anna Julia Cooper Project is now resident at Wake Forest.

She is a regular columnist for the magazine The Nation, the co-host of the magazine’s podcast System Check[10] with Dorian Warren, and the author of two books (one published under the name Melissa Victoria Harris-Lacewell).

MSNBC television series[edit]

On February 18, 2012, Harris-Perry began hosting an MSNBC weekend morning show titled Melissa Harris-Perry.[11]

In early 2013, Harris-Perry was criticized by some political commentators for statements she made on her program related to collective parenting.[12] On December 31, 2013, she apologized for a "photos of the year" segment on December 28, 2013, that included jokes about a family picture featuring former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's family, including his adopted Black grandson.[13][14][15]


On February 26, 2016, Harris-Perry sent an email to co-workers that she would not host her show on MSNBC for the coming weekend, stating: "Our show was taken—without comment or discussion or notice—in the midst of an election season [...] I will not be used as a tool for [management's] purposes [...] I am not a token, mammy, or little brown bobble head." Her show was scheduled to air as usual on Saturday, but Harris-Perry chose not to return, saying: "I am only willing to return when that return happens under certain terms."[16] She said she would only return when she could do "substantive, meaningful and autonomous work." NBC responded that "many of our daytime programs have been temporarily upended by breaking political coverage, including M.H.P."[16] The public dispute led to discussions between the network and her representatives about ending her relationship with MSNBC.[17] On February 28, 2016, the network confirmed that Harris-Perry was leaving the network.[18] editor-at-large[edit]

On April 18, 2016, it was announced that Harris-Perry joined as editor-at-large. In the role, Harris-Perry is stated to focus on areas of race, gender, politics, and fashion, "telling the often-overlooked stories of women and girls of color".[19]

The Takeaway[edit]

On July 23, 2021, Harris-Perry was named as interim host of The Takeaway following the departure of the show's previous host, Tanzina Vega.[20] She was later announced as the permanent host and managing editor on October 18, 2021.[21]

In March 2023 she announced the decision to cancel the show per June 2 of that year, slamming management of WNYC publicly on Twitter.[22]

Personal life[edit]

In 2008 she underwent a hysterectomy due to uterine fibroids.[23]

In 2010 she married attorney James Perry. He is the CEO of the Winston-Salem Urban League.[24] On February 14, 2014, their daughter was born via gestational carrier.[23] She is Harris-Perry’s second child.[23]

In April 2015, the Winston-Salem Journal reported that the IRS had placed a tax lien on the property of Harris-Perry and her husband for about $70,000 in delinquent taxes. Harris-Perry said she and her husband paid $21,721 on April 15, 2015, and have a payment plan with the IRS.[25][26][27]


  • Harris-Lacewell, Melissa Victoria (2004). Barbershops, Bibles, and BET: Everyday Talk and Black Political Thought (First ed.). Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-11405-7.
  • Harris-Perry, Melissa V. (2011). Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America. Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-16541-8.


  1. ^ Harris, Aisha (January 24, 2014). "When White Parents Adopt Black Children". browbeat. Retrieved August 29, 2015.
  2. ^ Williams, Michael Paul (February 6, 2011). "Chesterfield native, now MSNBC commentator, speaking at VCU". Richmond Times-Dispatch. Archived from the original on February 4, 2013. Retrieved June 19, 2011.
  3. ^ Pope, John (October 2, 2011). "New Orleans transplant has a life rich in politics, pedagogy". The Times-Picayune. Retrieved September 7, 2015.
  4. ^ "About Melissa Harris-Perry". 2011. Archived from the original on October 23, 2010. Retrieved April 8, 2011.
  5. ^ Levin, Anne (October 10, 2007). "From House to Home". U.S. 1 Newspaper. Archived from the original on March 8, 2016. Retrieved June 19, 2011.
  6. ^ Glickel, Jen (February 12, 2005). "Uncommon Interview – Melissa Harris-Lacewell". The Chicago Maroon. Retrieved February 7, 2015.
  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. ^ Neal, Katie (April 11, 2014). "Melissa Harris-Perry to join faculty". Wake Forest University News Center. Retrieved September 7, 2015.
  9. ^ "Melissa Harris-Perry – Politics and International Affairs". Retrieved January 28, 2019.
  10. ^ "System Check". The Nation. Retrieved October 26, 2020.
  11. ^ Christopher, Tommy (January 5, 2012). "Melissa Harris-Perry To Host MSNBC Weekend Show Starting in February". Mediaite. Retrieved January 5, 2012.
  12. ^ Freedlander, David (April 11, 2013). "Melissa Harris-Perry and the Firestorm Over 'Collective' Parenting". The Daily Beast. Retrieved December 10, 2013.
  13. ^ Grier, Peter (December 31, 2013). "Melissa Harris-Perry Apologizes for Romney Grandchild Jokes". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved December 31, 2013.
  14. ^ LoGiurato, Brett (January 2, 2014). "Here's Melissa Harris-Perry's Tearful Apology for the Controversial Segment on the Romneys' Black Grandchild". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved January 6, 2014.
  15. ^ Harris-Perry, Melissa (December 31, 2013). "An apology from Melissa Harris-Perry". MSNBC. Retrieved January 6, 2014.
  16. ^ a b Koblin, John (February 26, 2016). "Melissa Harris-Perry Walks Off Her MSNBC Show After Pre-emptions". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved February 28, 2016.
  17. ^ Farhi, Paul (February 27, 2016). "MSNBC to sever ties with Melissa Harris-Perry after host's critical email". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved February 28, 2016.
  18. ^ Koblin, John (February 28, 2016). "Melissa Harris-Perry Is Out at MSNBC, Network Confirms". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved February 29, 2016.
  19. ^ Chernikoff, Leah (April 18, 2016). "Melissa Harris-Perry Joins as Editor-at-Large". Elle. Retrieved April 19, 2016.
  20. ^ Falk, Tyler (July 23, 2021). "'Takeaway' host Tanzina Vega resigns". Current. Archived from the original on October 19, 2021. Retrieved October 18, 2021.
  21. ^ Katz, A.J. (October 18, 2021). "Former MSNBC Host Melissa Harris-Perry Named Host of Nationally-Syndicated Radio News Show The Takeaway". TVNewser. Archived from the original on October 19, 2021. Retrieved October 18, 2021.
  22. ^ Pillbury, Skye (March 8, 2023). "WNYC Leadership created a mess". Substack.|
  23. ^ a b c Crosley Coker, Hillary (February 18, 2014). "Melissa Harris-Perry Shares Story of Welcoming Daughter via Surrogacy". Jezebel. Retrieved February 23, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  24. ^ Ginsburg, Eric (August 17, 2017). "Back to school with Melissa Harris-Perry (and why she loves Winston-Salem, too)". The NC Triad's altweekly. Retrieved February 23, 2021.
  25. ^ Hewlett, Michael (April 15, 2015). "IRS files $70K tax lien against Harris-Perry, husband". Winston-Salem Journal. Retrieved September 7, 2015.
  26. ^ "MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry owes $70,000 in delinquent taxes, IRS says". POLITICO. Retrieved October 31, 2016.
  27. ^ Wemple, Erik (April 22, 2015). "MSNBC fails to address tax problems of hosts". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved October 31, 2016.

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