Henry Louis Gates, Jr., is one of the United States' most influential cultural critics and is both an eloquent commentator and formidable intellectual force on multicultural and African American issues. He has directed the W. E. B. Institute for African and African American Research—now the Hutchins Center—since arriving at Harvard in 1991, and chaired the Department of Afro-American Studies as it expanded into the Department of African and African American Studies with a full-fledged doctoral program.
Emmy Award-winning filmmaker, literary scholar, journalist, cultural critic, and institution builder, Professor Gates has authored or co-authored twenty-one books and created fifteen documentary films, including Wonders of the African World, African American Lives, Faces of America, Black in Latin America, and Finding Your Roots, his groundbreaking genealogy series now in its third season on PBS. His six-part PBS documentary series, The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross (2013), which he wrote, executive produced, and hosted, earned the Emmy Award for Outstanding Historical Program—Long Form, as well as the Peabody Award, Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award, and NAACP Image Award.
Having written for such leading publications as The New Yorker, The New York Times, and Time, Professor Gates now serves as chairman of TheRoot.com, a daily online magazine he co-founded in 2008, while overseeing the Oxford African American Studies Center, the first comprehensive scholarly online resource in the field. He has also received grant funding to develop a Finding Your Roots curriculum to teach students science through genetics and genealogy.
He has received 55 honorary degrees, from institutions including the University of Pennsylvania, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, New York University and Howard University. Professor Gates was a member of the first class awarded “genius grants” by the MacArthur Foundation in 1981, and in 1998, he became the first African American scholar to be awarded the National Humanities Medal. He was named to Time’s 25 Most Influential Americans list in 1997, to Ebony’s Power 150 list in 2009, and to Ebony’s Power 100 list in 2010 and 2012.
He also is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and serves on a wide array of boards, including the New York Public Library, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the Aspen Institute, Jazz at Lincoln Center, the Whitney Museum of American Art, Library of America, and the Brookings Institution. In 2006, he was inducted into the Sons of the American Revolution, after he traced his lineage back to John Redman, a Free Negro who fought in the Revolutionary War.
Dr. Gates earned his B.A. in English Language and Literature, summa cum laude, from Yale University in 1973, and his M.A. and Ph.D. in English Literature from Clare College at the University of Cambridge in 1979.
Henry Louis Gates, Jr., is widely acknowledged for taking African American studies beyond the ideological bent and bringing it into a scholarly sphere that is equivalent to all other disciplines.
Dr. Gates was outstanding. His speech was exactly what we were looking for. Our guests thoroughly enjoyed it. He was a delight to work with throughout the process as well.
It was great! He was so incredibly frank and personable, and really tailored the talk to the present moment, and to Portland in particular. We have had great reviews from attendees as well – I think folks could have stayed on much longer listening to him speak! For someone who is so polished in his PBS docs, it was nice to have him speak so openly and directly about such a difficult, but painfully relevant, topic.