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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 founding director of the Anna Julia Cooper Center and the faculty director of the Pro Humanitate Institute. She is also the co-host of Freedom on Tap.

Melissa 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 Fall 2017 Professor Harris-Perry is teaching:
African American Politics
This course provides an introduction to the political experience of African Americans. The course is contemporary in focus. Topics include African American political thought, voting and participation, urban politics, race and elected office, and issues of gender, class, age and sexual identity at the intersections of black politics.

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:

1/23/17: Voices of Hope and Resistance: Angela Davis in Conversation with Melissa Harris-Perry
1/22/17: All Souls Unitarian Church
1/21/17: Women’s March on Washington


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.

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:

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 faculty 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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Interested in what books Melissa is reading? Sign up for her newsletter “What I’m Reading” here.

Sign up for the Anna Julia Cooper Center’s weekly newsletter featuring news, writing, and research investigating political questions at the intersections of gender, race, and region here.

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