Fact check: Photo questioning Kamala Harris’ African ancestry does not show her parents

Posts shared thousands of times on Facebook claim to show a photo of Senator Kamala Harris standing with her parents, questioning her African ancestry. The photo does not show Harris’s parents, but rather two supporters she posed with at a charity gala in 2016.

Reuters Fact Check. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt

Examples of these posts can be found here and here . Text on the posts asks: “Why does she keep referring to herself as an African American?”

The photo ( here ) was taken on August 27, 2016 in Palo Alto, California, at an event hosted by the Indian-American charity group Pratham in support of children’s education in India. It shows then California Attorney General Harris standing between supporters Suneil and Rohini Parulekar, both identified on Pratham’s website as executive board members ( here ).

The posts on social deny that Harris has African ancestry, attempting to discredit the senator and former presidential candidate’s Black identity. In a 2019 interview with DJ Envy and Charlamagne Tha God on their radio show “The Breakfast Club” ( here ), Harris answered questions on the “legitimacy” of her Black identity by saying the following: “I am Black and I am proud of it… I was born black and I’ll die black and I am proud of it. And I am not going to make any excuses for it, for anybody, because they don't understand.” ( here )

Published by San Francisco Bay Area newspaper The Mercury News, an image of Harris’s parents together can be found here . Harris’s father, Donald Harris, immigrated to the U.S. from Jamaica in 1964 to pursue a doctorate degree in economics at the University of California, Berkeley; her mother, Shyamala Gopalan, had come from India for doctoral work in endocrinology ( here ).

Donald Harris is a former economics professor at Stanford University ( here ).

Jamaica’s population largely consists of those descended from enslaved Africans brought by the English to work the island’s sugar estates ( here ). As of 2012, 90% of Jamaicans were of African origin ( here ).

The senator’s late mother, Shyamala Gopalan, was Tamil Indian-American. Gopalan graduated from the University of Delhi and then received a PhD in nutrition and endocrinology from UC Berkeley ( here ). She became a cancer researcher at Berkeley, and then at the University of Illinois and the University of Wisconsin. Gopalan died of colon cancer in 2009 ( here ), seven years before the photo of her daughter with Suneil and Rohini Parulekar was taken.


False. This photo does not show the parents of Kamala Harris, but two supporters at a 2016 charity event.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our work to fact-check social media posts   here  .