VP Harris stopped by Morehouse College for the Fight For Our Freedoms College Tour

Vice President Harris at Morehouse College. Tuesday, September 26, 2023. (Matthew Pearson/WABE)

Students from four Atlanta HBCUs gathered inside Morehouse’s Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel this week to welcome Vice President Kamala Harris.

Harris visited the Atlanta University Center in the latest stop of her “Fight For Our Freedoms College Tour.” She is traveling to over a dozen schools across at least seven states, bringing thousands of students together around “the fight for reproductive freedom, common sense gun safety laws, climate action, voting rights, LGBTQ+ equality, and teaching America’s full history.”

In the hours prior to Harris’ arrival, the crowd filled the Chapel with pride. A DJ and The House of Funk — Morehouse’s marching band — laid the soundtrack for an organic jubilee that punctuated remarks from student leaders, local leaders, and performances from a handful of Black fraternities and sororities. 

Then, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona took the stage, highlighting the excellence of HBCUs. 

“HBCUs have produced 40% of all Black engineers in America,” he said as the crowd uproared with deafening applause. “Fifty percent of all Black teachers in America … 70% of all Black doctors … 80% of Black judges … 100% of Black Vice Presidents.”

Harris took the stage some minutes later. The crowd’s rapturous welcome fell to pin-drop silence as she framed the day’s visit in the longer history of Black voting rights struggles in Georgia. 

“History is kind of a relay race,” she told the crowd. “Those upon whose shoulders we stand, they did what they could do when they were carrying the baton, and then they handed it to us.”

Harris continued by stressing the importance of young voters, especially in Georgia. 

“They’ve passed laws in Georgia that say…if you go to a private college, your school ID will not qualify as ID to vote. Who here goes to a private college?” she asked. The Chapel was filled with raised hands. “You see what I mean?”

Harris credited young people for Democrats’ narrow success in Georgia’s close 2020 race between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump. Biden won the state by nearly 12,000 votes.

“In 2020, in the height of a pandemic, we had record young voter turnout, record young voter turnout,” she said. “And it is because of that turnout that Joe Biden was elected President of the United States, and I was elected the first Black woman vice president of the United States. Because you voted.”

The vice president’s message resonated with Dae’Janae Hannah, a first-year at Clark-Atlanta. 

“The moment that impacted me the most is when she asked how many students had experiences with gun violence or drills,” Hannah says. “Almost everybody raised their hand.”

“I loved how she told the faculty and all the adults to pay attention to the students. [It] made me feel comfortable because it’s like, okay, there actually is somebody out here fighting for us,” she added. “I will be registering to vote this year.” 

That emotional pull didn’t land with everyone, though. 

“She was really dodging the questions so much,” said Jibril Young, a first-year at Morehouse who also pointed to when Harris addressed gun safety. “She said, ‘Oh, let’s ban assault weapons and, like, do background checks’… It was nothing like new.”

Young is also registered to vote but wants to do his research before he casts a ballot for anyone.

Vice President Harris was joined by Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens, who was greeted by boos from the crowd. Some Morehouse students and faculty have been vocal about their opposition to Dickens’ support of the proposed Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, commonly referred to as “Cop City.”

Sen. Raphael Warnock was another high-ranking Georgia Democrat to make an appearance. His 2020 and 2022 victories were helped by young and minority voters as well.

With only a year until Election Day, the Democrats are hoping that this tour will help rally the same kind of support they garnered in 2020 and 2022.