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Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

Alphonse Fletcher, Jr. University Professor

Director of the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research

Contact Information
Du Bois 3R
(617) 496-5468
(617) 495-9490
W.E.B. Du Bois Institute
104 Mt. Auburn St. Rm. 3R
Cambridge, MA 02138

Websites: Blacks in Western Art

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University, as well as director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research. He is the author most recently of Life Upon These Shores: Looking at African American History, 1513-2008 (Random House, 2011) and Black in Latin America (New York University Press, 2011). The Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Reader, a collection of his writings that spans 30 years, was published in 2012 (Basic Civitas Books), and his ten-part documentary series, Finding Your Roots, aired on PBS from March through May 2012.

Professor 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 National Biography (Oxford, 2008). With Emmanuel Akyeampong, he is the co-editor of the six-volume Dictionary of African Biography (Oxford, 2011). He is editing, along with Franklin W. Knight of Johns Hopkins University, the six-volume Dictionary of Caribbean and Afro-Latin Biography, to be published by Oxford in 2014.

In addition, Professor Gates is the author of several works of literary criticism, including Figures in Black: Words, Signs and the 'Racial' Self (Oxford University Press, 1987); The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of Afro-American Literary Criticism (Oxford, 1988), winner of the 1989 American Book Award; Loose Canons: Notes on the Culture Wars (Oxford, 1992); and, most recently, Tradition and the Black Atlantic: Criticism in the African Diaspora (Basic Books, 2010).  He is the author of Colored People: A Memoir (Knopf, 1994), which traces his childhood experiences in a small West Virginia town in the 1950s and 1960s; The Future of the Race (Knopf, 1996), co-authored with Cornel West; Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Man (Random House, 1997); and In Search of Our Roots: How Nineteen Extraordinary African Americans Reclaimed Their Past (Crown, 2009), which won an NAACP Image Award in 2010.

An influential cultural critic, Professor Gates has written a 1994 cover story for Time magazine on the new black Renaissance in art, as well as numerous articles and opinion pieces for The New Yorker, the New York Times, and The Root. In addition, he has edited several anthologies, including The Norton Anthology of African American Literature (W.W. Norton, 1996), and The Oxford-Schomburg Library of Nineteenth Century Black Women Writers (Oxford, 1991), and is the publisher of Transition magazine. Previously for PBS, Professor Gates produced and hosted Wonders of the African World (1999), America Beyond the Color Line (2004), African American Lives (2006), Oprah's Roots (2007), African American Lives 2 (2008), Looking for Lincoln (2009), Faces of America (2010), and Black in Latin America (2011).

Professor 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 English Language and Literature, summa cum laude, from Yale University in 1973. Before joining the faculty of Harvard in 1991, he taught at Yale, Cornell and Duke Universities. Professor Gates has received 51 honorary degrees, as well as a 1981 MacArthur Foundation "Genius Award," the 1993 George Polk Award for Social Commentary, and the 2008 Ralph Lowell Award, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting's highest award. In addition, Professor Gates was named one of Time magazine's "25 Most Influential Americans" in 1997, and one of Ebony magazine's "100 Most Influential Black Americans" in 2005, and he was selected for Ebony's "Power 150" list for 2009 and its "Power 100" list for 2010. He received a National Humanities Medal in 1998, and in 1999 was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. 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.