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    Melissa Harris-Perry


About Melissa

Melissa Harris-Perry is the Maya Angelou Presidential Chair at Wake Forest University. There she is the Executive Director of the Pro Humanitate Institute and founding director of the Anna Julia Cooper Center.

Melissa is Editor-at-Large at ELLE.com. She hosted the television show “Melissa Harris-Perry” from 2012-2016 on weekend mornings on MSNBC.

She is the author of the award-winning Barbershops, Bibles, and BET: Everyday Talk and Black Political Thought, and Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America.

Harris-Perry received her B.A. degree in English from Wake Forest University and her Ph.D. degree in political science from Duke University. She also studied theology at Union Theological Seminary in New York. Harris-Perry previously served on the faculty of the University of Chicago, Princeton University, and Tulane University.

Melissa Harris-Perry


Wake Forest ProfessorMelissa Harris-Perry is the Maya Angelou Presidential Chair at Wake Forest University.

In Spring 2016 Professor Harris-Perry taught:

Black Lives Matter
How has the meaning of racial justice transformed over the course of the 20th and early 21st century in America? What political changes, forms of resistance and societal shifts have contributed to and produced these variations? In polarizing political times, how can we more closely approximate a more racially just world? This course is an effort to understand the contemporary web of social, political, economic, and direct actions operating under the broad theme of Black Lives Matter. Drawing on broad, interdisciplinary approaches, this class will contextualize the long history of racial justice, non-violent, and anti-racist political movements within academic historical, social scientific, and legal frameworks. The course also seeks to develop the critical questioning, writing, and engagement skills of students.

Wake the Vote
Wake the Vote is a deep immersion program of citizenship education for a highly selective group of Wake Forest University undergraduate students. Building on the opportunity of the 2016 election year, Wake the Vote offers students the opportunity to form a diverse cohort working together over the course of an entire calendar year to experience American democracy from the front lines through travel, participatory action, employment, course work, program planning, and personal reflection.

Download current and previous syllabi for Professor Harris-Perry’s courses here.

TV Host

Melissa hosted the television show “Melissa Harris-Perry” from 2012-2016 on weekend mornings on MSNBC.

Past Show Segments:

Beyonce evokes New Orleans in new video

Flint mayor calls for pipe system replacement

When did the war over “progressivism” begin?

MHP Show

MHP Speaking


Requests for speaking engagements and public appearances by Professor Harris-Perry should be sent to harrisperryoffice@gmail.com.

Recent Speaking Engagements:

7/1/16: Essence Festival: Conversation with Ava DuVernay
6/23/16: Russell Simmons’ All Def Digital Town Hall
6/9/16: Center for American Progress: Key Priorities for Women of Color in 2016


sister citizenSister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America
Yale University Press, 2011

Jezebel’s sexual lasciviousness, Mammy’s devotion, and Sapphire’s outspoken anger—these are among the most persistent stereotypes that black women encounter in contemporary American life. Hurtful and dishonest, such representations force African American women to navigate a virtual crooked room that shames them and shapes their experiences as citizens. Many respond by assuming a mantle of strength that may convince others, and even themselves, that they do not need help. But as a result, the unique political issues of black women are often ignored and marginalized.

In this groundbreaking book, Melissa V. Harris-Perry uses multiple methods of inquiry, including literary analysis, political theory, focus groups, surveys, and experimental research, to understand more deeply black women’s political and emotional responses to pervasive negative race and gender images. Not a traditional political science work concerned with office-seeking, voting, or ideology, Sister Citizen instead explores how African American women understand themselves as citizens and what they expect from political organizing. Harris-Perry shows that the shared struggle to preserve an authentic self and secure recognition as a citizen links together black women in America, from the anonymous survivors of Hurricane Katrina to the current First Lady of the United States. Read the first chapter here.

MHP bookBarbershops, Bibles, and BET: Everyday Talk and Black Political Thought
Princeton University Press, 2004

Winner of the 2005 Best Book Award in Racial and Ethnic Political Identities, Ideologies and Theories Category; Race, Ethnicity, and Politics Section of the American Political Science Association
– Co-Winner of the 2005 W.E.B. Du Bois Book Award, National Conference of Black Political Scientists

What is the best way to understand black political ideology? Just listen to the everyday talk that emerges in public spaces, suggests Melissa Harris-Lacewell. And listen this author has–to black college students talking about the Million Man March and welfare, to Southern, black Baptists discussing homosexuality in the church, to black men in a barbershop early on a Saturday morning, to the voices of hip-hop music and Black Entertainment Television.

Using statistical, experimental, and ethnographic methods Barbershops, Bibles, and B.E.T offers a new perspective on the way public opinion and ideologies are formed at the grassroots level. The book makes an important contribution to our understanding of black politics by shifting the focus from the influence of national elites in opinion formation to the influence of local elites and people in daily interaction with each other. Arguing that African Americans use community dialogue to jointly develop understandings of their collective political interests, Harris-Lacewell identifies four political ideologies that constitute the framework of contemporary black political thought: Black Nationalism, Black Feminism, Black Conservatism and Liberal Integrationism. These ideologies, the book posits, help African Americans to understand persistent social and economic inequality, to identify the significance of race in that inequality, and to devise strategies for overcoming it. Read the first chapter here.



Melissa is Editor-at-Large at ELLE.com, where she acts as a guide to the stories, experiences, challenges, policies, and defining pop culture moments of women and girls of color.

She also hosts the web video series “Sole Search” featuring interviews newsmakers, celebrities, and the extraordinary-ordinary women who shape our world as they shop for shoes and talk with her about the serious and the silly, the political and the personal, and the compelling and the commonplace. Find all of her ELLE.com writing here.

Latest ELLE.com writing:
“Together, their losses represent more than the private agony of individual grief; they are living representations of our intergenerational bereavement. Theirs are the empty arms of black mothers that America has produced for centuries.”
“When I looked at Ms. Hamer and that speech it seemed to me that she had to be the bravest woman ever, to come before that body and to assert her rights, when she knew that she was going lose that battle. But she did it anyway, because she knew she was speaking not just for herself and for that day, but for me, and for all the other young women who were coming behind her. She didn’t know our names, but she was working for us. I find that incredibly empowering.”
“Maya did not write that poem for America. Frankly, she didn’t even write it for Cory. It is a Black girl poem. This does not mean that Booker is banned from reading, reciting, or finding the poem inspiring. Indeed, deeply specific experiences can offer universal truths available to all. But the poem has a context, a subject, and that subject matters because it is written from below. When the viewpoint is shifted dramatically the meaning of the words change.”
“Can I get real for a minute? I just did something I have never done. I left the final night of political nominating convention early.”
“At the start of the week, I was judging RNC 2016 by the by typical standards of a party convention, and it looked like the whole affair was going to be a #fail. But as we move into prime time on the final night of the Republican National Convention, I find myself having to admit that this week just may prove another jaw-dropping example of Donald Trump’s unorthodox mastery of American political media and partisan politics.”
“And there it is, the packing dilemma I had not allowed myself to say aloud: When I was checking my bag repeatedly, it was to see if I had packed my visibility, my citizenship, my belonging. More than a century after emancipation, after America’s new black citizens first participated in the democratic process, these rights are still not assumed, but things I feel the need to seek and assert. I look back in awe at the glorious dignity of those black citizens who rushed into the 1870s with unfettered enthusiasm for self-governance. They chose to love America, even though it often failed to love them back. But as news of protestor and police presence in Cleveland dominated coverage of RNC preparation, I had become afraid.”
Read more at Elle.com

Anna Julia Cooper Center

Anna Julia Cooper CenterMelissa is the founding director of the Anna Julia Cooper Center, an interdisciplinary center at Wake Forest University that uses the tools of the academy to build scholarly foundations for intersectional research, teaching, and community engagement.

The Center supports, generates, and communicates innovative research at the intersections of gender, race, and place, and sustains relationships between faculty, staff, students, researchers, community partners, and policy makers on campus and throughout the nation in order to ask new questions, reframe critical issues, and pursue equitable outcomes.

The Center’s raison d’être is Anna Julia Cooper, whose pioneering scholarship and activism laid the foundation for black American feminism and insisted on the importance of Southern voices in American politics.

Current Initiatives:

Advancing Equity For Women & Girls of Color: A Research Agenda for the Next Decade
On Friday, November 13, the Anna Julia Cooper Center at Wake Forest University and the White House Council on Women and Girls co-hosted the day-long conference “Advancing Equity for Women and Girls of Color: A Research Agenda for the Next Decade.” The conference launched a new initiative to develop a research agenda on women and girls of color. You can watch the conference in full here.

Collaborative to Advance Equity Through Research
The Collaborative to Advance Equity through Research is a voluntary affiliation of American colleges, universities, professional schools, seminaries, research programs, publishers, and public interest institutions committed to taking meaningful action to support and improve research about women and girls of color.

Learn More About the Anna Julia Cooper Center

Pro Humanitate Institute

Pro Humanitate InstituteMelissa is the executive director of the Pro Humanitate Institute at Wake Forest University. Pro Humanitate – for humanity – is the guiding motto of Wake Forest University. Charged with serving as the programmatic facilitator of our university motto, the Pro Humanitate Institute is a core of learning, teaching, research, service, and action that transforms the ethos of Wake Forest University into an explicit mission connected to clear practices with meaningful social justice outcomes.

The Institute sustains authentic relationships with local and global partners as it works with Wake Forest University students, faculty, and staff to encourage deep academic learning, foster transformative civic engagement, and address community-identified needs in order to build more meaningful lives and a more just world.

Current Initiatives:

Wake the Vote
Wake the Vote is an intensive civic learning and democratic engagement experience for a highly selective group of undergraduates at Wake Forest University. WTV offers student the opportunity to form a diverse cohort, examine issues central to the presidential election, build competencies for engaged citizenship, and experience American democracy from the front lines through travel, participatory action, employment, course work, program planning, and personal reflection. Learn more.

Learn more about PHI

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