A little-noticed anecdote that Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) told Elle in October has gone viral, thanks to its fantastical premise that she was a civil rights champion even as a small child, and it is likely cribbed from a story recounted by Martin Luther King Jr.
In October, Elle published this passage:
Senator Kamala Harris started her life’s work young. She laughs from her gut, the way you would with family, as she remembers being wheeled through an Oakland, California, civil rights march in a stroller with no straps with her parents and her uncle. At some point, she fell from the stroller (few safety regulations existed for children’s equipment back then), and the adults, caught up in the rapture of protest, just kept on marching. By the time they noticed little Kamala was gone and doubled back, she was understandably upset. “My mother tells the story about how I’m fussing,” Harris says, “and she’s like, ‘Baby, what do you want? What do you need?’ And I just looked at her and I said, ‘Fweedom.’”
That ripping good yarn bears a striking resemblance to a portion of a Playboy interview with Martin Luther King, Jr., from January 1965.
In it, Alex Haley asked King, as “the universally acknowledged leader of the American civil rights movement,” if he ever felt “awed by this burden of responsibility, or inadequate to its demands?”
King replied in part:
I subject myself to self-purification and to endless self-analysis; I question and soul-search constantly into myself to be as certain as I can that I am fulfilling the true meaning of my work, that I am maintaining my sense of purpose, that I am holding fast to my ideals, that I am guiding my people in the right direction. But whatever my doubts, however heavy the burden, I feel that I must accept the task of helping to make this nation and this world a better place to live in—for all men, black and white alike.
I never will forget a moment in Birmingham when a white policeman accosted a little Negro girl, seven or eight years old, who was walking in a demonstration with her mother. “What do you want?” the policeman asked her gruffly, and the little girl looked him straight in the eye and answered, “Fee-dom.”
In the same Elle interview, Harris recounted an alleged exchange with her 7-year-old godson.
“‘Auntie Kamala, they’re not going to let that man win, are they?’ And you know the babies in your life.…” she claimed he said.
According to the magazine, she closed her eyes and swallowed.
“I held him. I mean, it still brings me pain to remember how he felt, and what it made me feel, which is that I needed to protect this child. I had one way, in my mind, I thought the evening would go. And then there was the way it turned out,” she told the magazine.
“And so by the time I took the stage, I had ripped up my notes, and all I had was Alexander in my heart. And I took the podium and I said, ‘I intend to fight. I intend to fight,’” Harris said.
Elle reported, “If there’s anything we can know about Senator Kamala Harris, it’s that. When it comes to freedom, she will fight.”