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Henry Louis Gates Jr.

Harvard University

Henry Louis Gates Jr. is the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and Director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University. He is the author of In Search of Our Roots (Crown, 2009), which expands on interviews he conducted for his critically acclaimed multi-part PBS documentary series “African American Lives 1 and 2” His most recent documentary is “Faces of America.”

Gates is editor-in-chief of, a daily online magazine focusing on issues of interest to the African American community and written from an African American perspective; and the Oxford African American Studies Center, the first comprehensive scholarly online resource in the field of African American and Africana Studies. He is co-editor, with K. Anthony Appiah, of Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience. With Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, he is the co-editor of the eight-volume biographical encyclopedia African American Lives (Oxford, 2008).

Gates is the author of 12 books, including The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of Afro-American Literary Criticism (Oxford, 1988), winner of the 1989 American Book Award; Colored People: A Memoir (Knopf, 1994), and Finding Oprah’s Roots, Finding Your Own (Crown, 2007). Gates authenticated and published two landmark African American texts: Our Nig, or, Sketches from the Life of a Free Black (1859), by Harriet Wilson, the first novel published by an African American woman; and The Bondwoman’s Narrative, by Hannah Crafts, one of the first novels written by an African American woman. In 2006, he and Hollis Robbins co-edited The Annotated Uncle Tom’s Cabin (W. W. Norton, 2006).

An influential cultural critic, Gates has written for Time magazine, The New Yorker, and The New York Times. He is the editor of several major anthologies, including The Norton Anthology of African American Literature (W.W. Norton, 1996). Professor Gates has produced and hosted nine films for PBS and the BBC, including 1999’s “Wonders of the African World,” 2004’s “America Beyond the Color Line,” and 2009’s “Looking for Lincoln,” in addition to those mentioned above.

Gates earned his M.A. and Ph.D. in English literature from Clare College at the University of Cambridge. He received a B.A. in history, summa cum laude, from Yale University in 1973. Gates has received  50 honorary degrees and a 1981 MacArthur Foundation “Genius Award” He was also named one of Time magazine’s “25 Most Influential Americans” in 1997, one of the “100 Most Influential Black Americans” by Ebony in 2005, and a member of Ebony’s “Power 150” in 2009. Gates received a National Humanities Medal in 1998, was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1999, and received the 2008 Ralph Lowell Award from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the highest honor in the field of public television. In 2006, he was inducted into the Sons of the American Revolution after tracing his lineage back to John Redman, a Free Negro who fought in the Revolutionary War.

Gates received the Anisfield-Wolf book prize in 1989 for The Schomburg Library of Nineteenth-Century Black Women Writers (30 Volumes) (Oxford University Press).