Slide background

Welcome to the official website of Prof. Duchess Harris, Ph.D, J.D.

Slide background
Sister Scholar, Activist, Philanthropist, Professor, Family Woman
Slide background

Human Computer Project


About Miriam “Duchess” Harris

Professor Harris was a Mellon Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania. She graduated from PENN in 1991 with a degree in American History and Afro-American Studies. Six years later, she earned a Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of Minnesota. She was one of two graduates in a class of sixteen to be nominated for the American Studies Association National Dissertation Prize. She spent her final year in grad school as a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute on Race and Poverty at the University of Minnesota Law School.

In 1998, Harris joined the faculty at Macalester College. She became the first Chair of the American Studies Department in 2003 and was granted tenure in 2004. In 2007 she decided that attending law school would allow her to expand the scope of her scholarship even further. She was admitted to William Mitchell College as a “William Mitchell Fellow” (1 of 21 in an entering class of 336). This program is “designed for the most exceptional students, linking the student with a faculty member whose efforts and practical wisdom are changing the law itself.” She started taking courses in the part-time evening program, so that she could continue teaching at Macalester.  In 2008, she was the only law student in the country chosen to be an Associate Editor for Litigation News, the American Bar Association Section’s quarterly flagship publication.  In 2009, writing essay service she won a $96,000 fellowship from the Bush Leadership Program, which encourages their recipients to create positive change in their communities.  In 2010, she enhanced the William Mitchell College of Law’s community and created positive change as the first Editor-in-Chief of Law Raza Journal, an interactive on-line race and the law journal.

She earned a Juris Doctorate in January 2011, and has an expertise in Civil Rights Law. She was promoted to the rank of Full Professor in May of 2013.  The rank of professor is the highest of the standard academic ranks in the United States, and is held by 29.5% of U.S. academics.

Curriculum Vitae





BUY NOW | iTUNES – Racially Writing the Republic investigates the central role of race in the construction and transformation of American national identity from the Revolutionary War era to the height of the civil rights movement. Drawing on political theory, American studies, critical race theory, and gender studies, the contributors to this collection highlight the assumptions of white (and often male) supremacy underlying the thought and actions of major U.S. political and social leaders. At the same time, they examine how nonwhite writers and activists have struggled against racism and for the full realization of America’s political ideals. The essays are arranged chronologically by subject, and, with one exception, each essay is focused on a single figure, from George Washington to James Baldwin.

This book takes aim at a central dilemma of U.S. political history: how the promise of U.S. democracy – and of the “American dream” – has been integrally bound up with the ravages of American racism. We explore the gap between grand American ideals and the troubled American racial reality through the thorny efforts of two different groups of writer-activists to create American democracy and national identity: canonical thinkers and leaders, like Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Margaret Sanger, and Samuel Gompers, who joined exalted ideals with white racism, and lesser known race rebels – such as Paiute activist Sara Winnemucca, Mexican Texan Juan Nepomuceno Cortina, Filipino writer Carlos Bulosan, and African American writer-activists Ida B. Wells-Barnett, W.E.B. Du Bois, Lorraine Hansberry, and James Baldwin, who envisioned variously an anti-racist, egalitarian republic. While the canonical thinkers are deeply associated with constitutive “American” ideals of freedom, equality, and democracy, the race rebels worked courageously to reshape the promise of America beyond the confines of its racism.

With regard to the tribunes of America’s white republic, we do not simply dismiss their contributions – such as Jefferson’s declaration that “all men are created equal” or Sanger’s advocacy of women’s liberation. Rather, we wish to show how their beneficial ideas can be realized only by racially re-writing the republic – that is, by overcoming its racially exclusionary character. Simultaneously, we look to a set of anti-racist race rebels who improvised audaciously on the salutary parts of the American dream while vigorously contesting its oppressive manifestations. As race rebels, these thinkers struggled for social justice from perspectives that were explicitly informed by their own subordinate racialized identities. And yet, their visions of a good society – their not-yet-visible republic – are, in Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous phrase, “deeply rooted in the American dream.”




PAPERBACK – BUY NOW -Taking an interdisciplinary approach, this book analyzes Black women’s involvement in American political life, focusing on what they did to gain political power between 1961 and 2001, and why, in many cases, they did not succeed. Harris demonstrates that Black women have tried to gain centrality through their participation in Presidential Commissions, Black feminist organizations, theatrical productions, film adaptations of literature, beauty pageants, electoral politics, and Presidential appointments. Harris contends that ‘success’ in this area means that the feminist-identified Black women in the Congressional Black Caucus who voted against Clarence Thomas’s appointment would have spoken on behalf of Anita Hill; Senator Carol Moseley Braun would have won re-election; Lani Gunier would have had a hearing; Dr. Joycelyn Elders would have maintained her post; and Congresswoman Barbara Lee wouldn’t have stood alone in her opposition to the Iraq war resolution.

BOOK REVIEW | On the Bestsellers List


Essays & Contributions




I believe pedagogy is a form of social practice and it should inspire a lifelong, hands-on learning commitment to students. For me, teaching is not simply a matter of improving academic preparation or demonstrating an area of ongoing research. It must expand our sense of possibility for the world beyond the classroom. This belief informs my philosophy of teaching: students grow as individuals when we invite them to engage in rigorous classroom methodologies and meaningful civic engagement.

I have adapted and expanded upon existing courses and curricula to develop several innovative courses in my subject area specialties of race, law, and feminism. The fact that these courses are included in the Critical Theory Concentration, Legal Studies Concentration, and the Women’s Gender, and Sexuality Department reflects and reinforces my interdisciplinary interests, and underscores my ability to make meaningful contributions outside of my home department.

Whenever possible, my courses involve a field component that requires students to make critical “real world” connections. Often, I have had to create these types of connections from the ground-up because students might not have had these experiences prior to my course.  I begin with simply exposing students to the world beyond their own home communities. To this end, I developed several courses that involved students traveling with me to a place (or places) where they would learn history in situ.

Senior Seminar Course

Duchessteaching23One of my favorite courses was the 2012 Senior Seminar, where the students were enthusiastic and committed. The Seminar brought into play many different topics and concepts, ranging from race, sexuality, privilege, oppression, power and identity. The students were not only active in discussions and presentations, but articulated how they could use their new understanding to affect change in their communities. There was an appreciation for working with others from different backgrounds and learning from their peers. The attached video snapshot shows not only students contemplating the above topics, but the close rapport that evolved over the course of the seminar:


Journal Articles

What You Don’t Know Can Kill You: Race Class and Access to Genetic Cancer Testing,The Feminist Wire (2013)

Your Feminism Ain’t Like Ours , Because We Are Raising QuvenzhanéThe Feminist Wire (2013)

Civil Rights Law and The Valley Swim Club: “Trouble the Waters” in the Age of Obama(with Craig Green and Keesha Gaskins), William Mitchell Law Raza Journal(2012)

Kathryn Stockett Is Not My Sister and I Am Not Her HelpJENdA: A Journal of Culture of African Women Studies (2011)

I did not attend Wednesday’s movie release of The Help from DreamWorks Pictures, based on…

The Help Leaves Her Longing for a More Authentic StoryJENdA: A Journal of Culture of African Women Studies (2011)

I had said I would not see the movie, The Help. I made that decision…

Book Review: This Violent Empire: The Birth of an American National IdentityJournal of American History (2010)

This Violent Empire sheds important light on the dark historical schism between the aspirations of…

Orders Highlight Need for Diversity in Appointing Class CounselLitigation News (2010)

A federal district judge received considerable attention from litigators around the country as a result…

The State of Black Women in Politics Under the First Black PresidentThe Scholar and Feminist Online Issue (2010)

It would be nice to think that Obama’s election was the positive end note to…

In-House Counsel’s Inactive Bar Status Causes Loss of PrivilegeLitigation News (2010)

Ruling that a corporation did not take reasonable precautions to confirm in-house counsel’s authority to…

Opposing Party Ordered to Pay Expert Deposition Preparation FeesLitigation News(2010)

The use of experts in litigation is common, and so are disputes over the payment…

“Clerk-Loaning” Program Sparks Ethical DebateLitigation News (2009)

In today’s economic climate, the legal profession faces the same financial pressures all businesses do….

Courts Wrangle with Twittering by JurorsLitigation News (2009)

The continuing improvement of search tools, proliferation of microblogging sites like Twitter, and increased use…

Computers to Replace Lawyers? Not YetLitigation News (2009)

Though “concept searching” may create efficiencies, developing the concept searches requires a team of individuals…

Review of Black Feminist Voices in Politics by Evelyn SimianNational Political Science Review (2007)

Review of Living for the Revolution: Black Feminist Organizations, 1968-1980 by Kimberly SpringerJournal of African American History (2006)

Negative Black American Stereotypes and Their Impact on Japanese Mindset and BehaviorsConnecticut Public Interest Law Journal (2002)

Review of Critical race feminism: A Reader edited by Adrien Katherine WingWomen & Politics (2002)

Multicultural Feminism Transforming DemocracySafundi: The Journal of South African and American Comparative Studies (2002)

[Reprinted] Babylon is Burning, Or Race, Gender, and Sexuality at the Revolutionary People’s Constitutional Convention (with Adam J. Waterman)Visiones Contemporaneas De La Cultura Y La Literature Norteamericana En Los Sesenta Universidad de Sevilla(2002)

The American Health Insurance Landscape: From Self-Insurance to Subsidies, Rationing, and Turmoil (with R Geist), Minnesota Medicine: A Journal of Critical and Health Affairs (2002)

Medical Inflation: New systems for contolling it (with R Geist), Minnesota Physician: The Independent Medical Business Newspaper (2001)

Multicultural Feminism Transforming DemocracyMacalester International (2000)

Babylon is Burning, Or Race, Gender, and Sexuality at the Revolutionary People’s Constitutional ConventionJournal of Intergroup Relations(2000)

The Problem of the 21st Century: The Problem of the Dollar SignBlack Issues in Higher Education (2000)

All of Who I Am in the Same Place: The Combahee River CollectiveWomanist Theory and Research (1999)

Expanding Women’s Opportunities: Black Participation on the President’s Commission on the Status of WomenJournal of Intergroup Relations(1998)

Analyzing Racial Justice and Social LawJournal of Intergroup Relations (1997)

Colin Powell’s American Journey: Not to the Capitol, but to CapitalJournal of Intergroup Relations (1997)

Reclaiming Culture or Commodifying Contempt? American Quarterly (1996)

Review essay of Kenneth Goings’, Mammy and Uncle Mose: Black collectible and American Stereotyping and…

More Than Memorabilia? Khaila as Jezebel, Manny, and Sapphire in Losing Isaiah,COLORS: Opinion & the Arts in Communities of Color (1995)

Book Review: Black Feminist Thought by Patricia Hill CollinsCanon: The Journal of the Rocky Mountain American Studies Association (1994)



2011–Friendship Ventures

2006-08 Penumbra Theater, Board of Directors

2000-06 Minnesota Women’s Foundation, Board of Directors and Chair of Governance

1996-99 Genesis II for Women, Inc. Board of Directors Vice President

1994-99 Model Cities

A Minnesota based organization whose mission is to promote the physical, mental, spiritual, social, and economic wellbeing of individuals, families and communities who are under served.



2010-present Shirley Chisholm Presidential Accountability Commission

The Commission conducts research, consults with the Executive Branch and members of Congress, convenes public forums and issues periodic Report Cards to grade presidential administrations as it relates to Black issues, and offer policy recommendations for advancing Black interests.

Boy was it sore though� and for a couple of days.