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
Melissa Harris-Perry by Gage Skidmore.jpg
Harris-Perry in 2016.
Born Melissa Victoria Harris
(1973-10-02) October 2, 1973 (age 43)
Seattle, Washington, U.S.
Occupation Author, political commentator, professor
Education Wake Forest University (B.A.)
Duke University (PhD)
Subject American politics, race relations
Spouse Dennis Lacewell (1999–2005)
James Perry (2010–present)
Children 2 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 but 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 studied theology at Union Theological Seminary in New York City.[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] The Anna Julia Cooper Project is now resident at Wake Forest.

She is a regular columnist for the magazine The Nation, and the author of two books (one published under the name Melissa Victoria Harris-Lacewell).

MSNBC television series[edit]

On January 5, 2012, MSNBC announced that Harris-Perry would host a weekend morning show, which began airing on February 18, 2012, eponymously titled Melissa Harris-Perry.[9]

In early 2013, Harris-Perry was criticized by some political commentators for statements she made on her program related to collective parenting.[10][11][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]


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.[20]



  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. 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. 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 (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. ^ Christopher, Tommy (January 5, 2012). "Melissa Harris-Perry To Host MSNBC Weekend Show Starting in February". Mediaite. Retrieved January 5, 2012. 
  10. ^ Freedlander, David (April 11, 2013). "Melissa Harris-Perry and the Firestorm Over 'Collective' Parenting". The Daily Beast. Retrieved December 10, 2013. 
  11. ^ Poor, Jeff (May 26, 2013). "MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry likens Guantanamo detainees to American slaves". The Daily Caller. Retrieved December 10, 2013. 
  12. ^ McMurry, Evan (July 21, 2013). "MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry Dons Tampon Earrings To Protest Texas Abortion Bill". Mediaite. 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 (2016-02-26). "Melissa Harris-Perry Walks Off Her MSNBC Show After Pre-emptions". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-02-28. 
  17. ^ Farhi, Paul (2016-02-27). "MSNBC to sever ties with Melissa Harris-Perry after host's critical email". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2016-02-28. 
  18. ^ Koblin, John (2016-02-28). "Melissa Harris-Perry Is Out at MSNBC, Network Confirms". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-02-29. 
  19. ^ Chernikoff, Leah (April 18, 2016). "Melissa Harris-Perry Joins as Editor-at-Large". Elle. Retrieved April 19, 2016. 
  20. ^ Hewlett, Michael (April 15, 2015). "IRS files $70K tax lien against Harris-Perry, husband". Winston-Salem Journal. Retrieved September 7, 2015. 

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