Melissa Harris-Perry

About Melissa

Melissa Harris-Perry is the Maya Angelou Presidential Chair at Wake Forest University.  There she is founding director of the Anna Julia Cooper Center. The AJC Center’s mission is to advance justice through intersectional scholarship. Harris-Perry is Editor-at-Large at where she acts as a guide to the stories, experiences, challenges, relevant public policies, and defining pop culture moments of women and girls of color.

For more than a decade,  Harris-Perry has contributed to American public life through her distinct combination of scholarly analysis and ordinary wisdom applied to the analysis of race, gender, politics, and power. She hosted the award winning television show Melissa Harris-Perry from 2012-2016 on weekend mornings on MSNBC and in 2016, she won the Hillman Prize for broadcast journalism. Her writing has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and many other print and digital venues. She was among the initial cohort of writers for and authored highly regarded columns for both Essence and The Nation.  

Committed to diversifying American journalism and mentoring emerging public voices, Professor Harris-Perry has developed and implemented innovative mentoring efforts. Along with Professor Sherri Williams, she co-directs the Scholars Program centering the stories of women and girls of color and BLACK ON CAMPUS, a national student journalism program in partnership with The Nation.

Professor Harris-Perry is a nationally recognized scholar and teacher. She is 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. Her innovative teaching has been recognized and replicated by colleagues throughout the country. In 2016, Professor Harris-Perry founded and co-directed the innovative, bipartisan, student, democratic engagement program, Wake the Vote.

Professor Harris-Perry was the inaugural executive director of the Pro Humanitate Institute of Wake Forest University from 2015-2018. Under her leadership the institute expanded community engagement, generated new curricular interventions, and forged ties across difference even as many within higher education struggled to balance the values of free speech and safe spaces. Her efforts culminated with the Rethinking Community Conference.

Along with Dorian Warren, Harris-Perry is principal and co-host of Freedom on Tap, an independent media project combining live events, digital, and audio content.

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. She serves on several boards and award committees and is a trustee of The Century Foundation.

Melissa Harris-Perry


Wake Forest Professor

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

Prior to joining the faculty of Wake Forest University, she served on the faculties of Tulane University, Princeton University, and the University of Chicago. She is proud to have begun her academic teaching career at the historical black college, North Carolina Central University.  

Committed to collaborative, open source learning, many of her recent syllabi are  publicly available.

Beginning in September 2018, the public can register to take “Short Courses” online with Professor Harris-Perry. Click here to learn more.

MHP Show

Melissa hosted the award-winning television show Melissa Harris-Perry from 2012-2016 on weekend mornings on MSNBC. The show’s innovative and courageous interventions in the fields of race, gender, equity, American politics, and popular culture were honored with multiple awards including: PLFLAG Straight for Equality Media Award, Champion for Choice Award, GLAAD Award for Outstanding TV Journalism, Planned  Parenthood Award for Excellence in TV Journalism , National Center for Transgender Equality Media Momentum Award, National Council of Jewish Women Award, a New York Correctional Association Award and the 2016 Hillman Prize in Broadcast Journalism.

Video archives and transcripts are available here.

MHP Show

MHP Speaking


Requests for speaking engagements and public appearances by Professor Harris-Perry should be sent to


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 Center

Melissa 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.

Learn more about the Anna Julia Cooper Center

Learn More About the Anna Julia Cooper Center

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.

Black on Campus

BLACK ON CAMPUS is a national program for up to five (5) emerging storytellers aged 19–25 enrolled full time in two or four year colleges, universities, or graduate schools. These young writers will work under the direction of Melissa Harris-Perry, founding director of the AJC Center who is Maya Angelou Presidential Chair at Wake Forest University and Dr. Sherri Williams, assistant professor in race, media and  communication at American University who is an AJC Center affiliated researcher. BLACK ON CAMPUS allows participants to develop professional skills as they document the experiences of black college students and report on issues of national consequence to a black college student audience. Participants will produce solo and joint pieces for publication by The Nation in 2018.

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Melissa is represented by CCMNT Speakers, a boutique agency at the 
intersections of academia and activism.

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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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