Mildred Harris was born in South Carolina in 1926. She moved to Harlem as a baby, when her parents, Eddie and Jessie Mae Harris, joined the wave of African-Americans fleeing the South as part of the Great Migration. Mildred and her siblings—there would eventually be eight children altogether—grew up moving from building to building for Eddie’s work as a superintendent: 129th Street to 118th to Lenox to 112th to 111th to 120th to Edgecombe. Often, the Harrises would take in extended family members who had made the journey north after them; the U.S. Census indicates that, at one point, they had fourteen people living in their apartment. But the Great Depression made it difficult for Eddie to make ends meet, and in 1936 the family made a reverse migration from Harlem back across the Mason-Dixon Line. After nearly two years spent working as sharecroppers in South Carolina, they returned to Harlem, and Mildred and her siblings got a fresh view of the so-called black promised land.