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Duchess Harris

Professor of American Studies
Focuses on 20th-century African American political history and civil rights

Humanities #109


Professor Harris arrived at Macalester as an instructor and a visiting assistant professor in 1994, teaching courses in women’s and gender studies. In 1998 she joined the tenure-track faculty in political science and African American studies. She was tenured in 2004, earned a Juris Doctorate in 2011, and was promoted to full professor in 2013. Dr. Harris was also a founding member of the American Studies department and served as chair for eight years, including as its inaugural chair.

The breadth of courses Dr. Harris has taught is wide-ranging, and includes Foundations of U.S. Politics, Policy Analysis: Health Care in the United States, Black Political Thought, Race and the Law, and “The Obama Presidency.” Among the things she’s most proud of during her time at Macalester are the lifelong bonds she builds with her students in the classroom.

Professor Harris was a Mellon Mays Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania. She graduated with a degree in American History. In 1990, she was elected Student Body President, which made her the first Black woman to serve in this role at an Ivy League institution. She earned a Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of Minnesota. While in graduate school, she worked for the late U.S. Senator Paul D. Wellstone. She did a Policy Fellowship at the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs, and also completed Postdoctoral Fellowships at the University of Minnesota Law School and the University of Georgia.

Harris has advocated on the national level at the Congressional Black Caucus., Locally, she was appointed as a Minneapolis Civil Rights Commissioner by Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton, appointed to the Governor’s Council on Black Minnesotans by Governor Jesse Ventura, appointed to Co-Chair the Statewide Marin Luther King Holiday (twice) by Governor Mark Dayton; and appointed to the Board of Public Defense by Governor Tim Walz.

Her academic books include, Racially Writing the Republic: Racists, Race Rebels, and Transformations of American Identity, (2009), Black Feminist Politics from Kennedy to Clinton, (2009), Black Feminist Politics from Kennedy to Obama, (2011),Black Feminist Politics from Kennedy to Trump, (2018) and “Black Girl Magic Beyond the Hashtag: Twenty-First Century Acts of Self-Definition” (2019). She is also the proud curator of the Duchess Harris Collection, which has 120 written for 4-12 graders.

AWARDS AND RECOGNITION (2015 to the present)

Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal, 200 Black Leaders in the Twin Cities region

Trustee Award, Macalester College, recognition for excellence in teaching, scholarship, and service.

“Understanding Our Duluth Lynchings” Symposium Wins 2022 AASLH History in Progress Award and Award of Excellence

Thomas J. Sheehy III Distinguished Alumni Award. Established in 2014 and named after the fifth headmaster of Canterbury School, the award recognizes an alumnus/a of Canterbury School who through their professional, community, or public service, has brought distinction to themselves, credit to the school, and benefit to the communities they serve.

Minneapolis YWCA “Woman of Power”

Thomas Jefferson Award

AARP Minnesota & Pollen 50 over 50 Honoree as a “Disruptor” and “Narrative Shaper.”

Distinguished Recognition for Leadership and Service from Voices Magazine

Association of Black Women in Higher Education’s Presidential Award

Alumni Annual Fund Donations in Honor of Duchess Harris (11), Macalester

Recognition from the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity. NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas

University of Pennsylvania, “Distinguished Service Award” for outstanding contributions to “foment an educated, engaged and informed citizenry”

Sigma Beta Zeta Chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., “Woman of the Year”

Minnesota Association of Black Lawyers, “Profiles in Courage” Award