Senator Kamala Harris part of Berkeley integration bussing back in 1969

ByLeslie Brinkley KGO logo
Saturday, June 29, 2019
Sen. Harris part of integration bussing in the Easy Bay back in 1969
Early photo of Presidential Candidate and Senator Kamala Harris (pictured right). When she was in elementary school, Harris was a part of integration bussing in Berkeley in 1969.

BERKELEY, Calif. (KGO) -- Kamala Harris spent much of her childhood in Berkeley growing up in a yellow house where she lived on the second floor with her mother and sister above a nursery school.

She was bussed to elementary school starting in 1969.

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Ty Alper of the Berkeley Unified School Board said "It was the first district in the country to integrate schools using a bussing plan and it was controversial."

It's a bussing plan that is still in place in the present day according to Alper who added: "I was really proud to see the history of Berkeley's voluntary integration talked about on the debate stage."

The debate was keenly watched by Judy Shelton Robinson from her longtime Berkeley home because Kamala Harris grew up two doors down, and every day, spent time in her mom's kitchen after school.

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"It just brought back memories because it was all true. She would leave here on the bus and got to school and come back, and her mother was working at the University, so my mother would watch over her until her mother would come home," Robinson said.

Harris has publicly stated that she started kindergarten one year after Berkeley schools launched its integration program, taking black children from the flatlands up to the hills, and taking white children from the hills to the flatlands.

Harris was bussed two-and-a-half miles north from her home on Bancroft to Thousand Oaks Elementary school, where a mural now stands testament to the history making era she grew up in.

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Robinson recalled "She was very smart. She was very much like her mother and wouldn't take 'no' for an answer."

Robinson says as an adult Kamala Harris would come back to the kitchen to chat about politics. She said, "like my mother said, you're going to be president one day."