Angola University Board of Trustees
Louis Gates, Jr., Ph.D
Henry Louis Gates, Jr., is the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and the Director of the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University.
Professor Gates is Editor-in-Chief of the Oxford African American Studies Center, the first comprehensive scholarly online resource in the field of African American Studies and Africana Studies, and of The Root, an online news magazine dedicated to coverage of African American news, culture, and genealogy. Earlier this year, Oxford University Press published the African American National Biography. Co-edited with Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, it is an 8-volume set containing more than 4,000 biographical entries on both well known and obscure African Americans. The companion website will add more than 1,000 entries to those in print within the next two years. With K. Anthony Appiah, he co-edited the encyclopedia Encarta Africana published on CD-ROM by Microsoft (1999), and in book form by Basic Civitas Books under the title Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience (1999). Oxford University Press published an expanded five-volume edition of the encyclopedia in 2005. He is most recently the author of Finding Oprah’s Roots, Finding Your Own (Crown, 2007), a meditation on genetics, genealogy, and race. His other recent books are America Behind the Color Line: Dialogues with African Americans (Warner Books, 2004), African American Lives, co-edited with Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham (Oxford, 2004), and The Annotated Uncle Tom’s Cabin, edited with Hollis Robbins (W. W. Norton, 2006).
In 2006, Professor Gates wrote and produced the PBS documentary also called “African American Lives,” the first documentary series to employ genealogy and science to provide an understanding of African American history. In 2007, a follow-up one-hour documentary, “Oprah’s Roots: An African American Lives Special,” aired on PBS, further examining the genealogical and genetic heritage of Oprah Winfrey, who had been featured in the original documentary. The second series, “African American Lives 2,” aired on PBS in February 2008. Professor Gates also wrote and produced the documentaries “Wonders of the African World” (2000) and “America Beyond the Color Line” (2004) for the BBC and PBS, and authored the companion volumes to both series.
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); and The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of Afro-American Literary Criticism (Oxford, 1988), winner of the American Book Award in 1989. He authenticated and facilitated the publication, in 1983, of Our Nig, or, Sketches from the Life of a Free Black (1859), by Harriet Wilson, the first novel published by an African American woman. Two decades later, in 2002, Professor Gates authenticated and published The Bondwoman’s Narrative by Hannah Crafts, dating from the early 1850s and now considered one of the first novels written by an African American woman. He is the co-author, with Cornel West, of The Future of the Race (Knopf, 1996), and the author of a memoir, Colored People (Knopf, 1994), that traces his childhood experiences in a small West Virginia town in the 1950s and 1960s. Among his other books are The Trials of Phillis Wheatley: America's First Black Poet and Her Encounters with the Founding Fathers (Basic Civitas Books, 2003); Thirteen Ways of Looking at A Black Man (Random House, 1997); and Loose Canons: Notes on the Culture Wars (Oxford, 1992). He is completing a book on race and writing in the eighteenth century, entitled “Black Letters and the Enlightenment.”
Professor Gates has edited several influential anthologies, including The Norton Anthology of African American Literature (W. W. Norton, 1996); and the Schomburg Library of Nineteenth Century Black Women Writers (Oxford, 1991). He is the editor of numerous essay collections, including Reading Black, Reading Feminist: A Critical Anthology (Meridian, 1990); "Race," Writing, and Difference (University of Chicago, 1986); and, with K. Anthony Appiah, volumes on the authors Toni Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston, Richard Wright, and Langston Hughes. In addition, Professor Gates is publisher of Transition magazine, an international review of African, Caribbean, and African American politics. An influential cultural critic, Professor Gates has written a 1994 cover story for Time magazine, numerous articles for the New Yorker, and in September 2004, a biweekly guest column in The New York Times.
Professor Gates earned his M.A. and Ph.D. in English literature from Clare College at the University of Cambridge, and his B.A. summa cum laude in History from Yale University, where he was a Scholar of the House, in 1973. He became a member of Phi Beta Kappa in his junior year at Yale. Before joining the faculty of Harvard in 1991, he taught at Yale, Cornell, and Duke. His honors and grants include a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant” (1981), the George Polk Award for Social Commentary (1993), Time magazine’s “25 Most Influential Americans” list (1997), a National Humanities Medal (1998), election to the American Academy of Arts and Letters (1999), the Jefferson Lecture (2002), a Visiting Fellowship at the School of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton (2003-2004), the Jay B. Hubbell Award for Lifetime Achievement in American Literary Studies from the Modern Language Association (2006), ), the Rave Award from Wired Magazine (2007), the Let’s Do It Better Award from of the Columbia University School of Journalism for “African American Lives” (2007), and the Cultures of Peace Award from the City of the Cultures of Peace (2007). He has received nearly 50 honorary degrees, from institutions including the University of Pennsylvania, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, New York University, University of Massachusetts-Boston, Williams College, Emory University, Howard University, University of Toronto, and the University of Benin. 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.
Professor Gates served as Chair of the Department of African and African American Studies at Harvard from 1991 to 2006. He serves on the boards of the New York Public Library, the Whitney Museum, Lincoln Center Theater, Jazz at Lincoln Center, the Aspen Institute, the Brookings Institution, the Studio Museum of Harlem, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford.