Option 1..jpg

Professor Harris was a Mellon Mays Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania. She graduated  in 1991 with a degree in American History. Six years later, she earned a Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of Minnesota. She did postdoctoral fellowships at the Institute on Race and Poverty at the University of Minnesota Law School and at the Womanist Studies Consortium at the University of Georgia.

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. 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, 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 became 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. In 2015, The Minnesota Association of Black Lawyers chose her to receive “The Profiles in Courage Award.”  She is currently a member of Governor Tim Walz's Board of Public Defense.

She is also the proud curator of the Duchess Harris Collection, which has 115 books written for 4-12 graders. Macalester College President, Brian C. Rosenberg, interviewed her about her book on the #MeToo Movement.


Professor Harris is a scholar of Contemporary African American History and Political Theory. Her academic books include, Racially Writing the Republic: Racists, Race Rebels, and Transformations of American Identity, (2009), Black Feminist Politics from Kennedy to Clinton, (2009), Black Feminist Politics from Kennedy to Obama, (2011),Black Feminist Politics from Kennedy to Trump, (2018) and "Black Girl Magic Beyond the Hashtag:

Twenty-First Century Acts of Self-Definition" (2019).


She resides in Vadnais Heights MN with her husband, Dr. Jon. V. Thomas, their three children, Austin, Avi, and Zach; a British Short Haired cat named Skittles, a stray cat named Tommie,  and a Standard Poodle named Mocha.


Screen Shot 2019-04-14 at 1.34.49 PM.png
Screen Shot 2018-01-07 at 6.34.49 PM.png
NPSR cover 19.1 and 19.jpg
Screen Shot 2018-01-07 at 6.28.16 PM.png
Screen Shot 2018-01-07 at 6.19.09 PM.png


Macalester Moment, fall 2018.jpg

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.


One 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.

Senior Thesis 2012




2016-Present The Arc

Watch a clip from a fundraiser Harris led to benefit The Arc

2013-Present Brownbody


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.

Public Policy

2017 Black History Month: Rep. Becker-Finn honors the women of NASA and Dr. Duchess Harris

2010-2011 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.