Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and Director of the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research at Harvard University.

Emmy Award-winning filmmaker, literary scholar, journalist, cultural critic, and institution builder, Professor Gates has authored or co-authored twenty-four books and created twenty-one documentary films, including Wonders of the African World, African American Lives, Faces of America, Black in Latin America, Black America since MLK: And Still I Rise, and Africa’s Great Civilizations. Finding Your Roots, his groundbreaking genealogy series now in its sixth season on PBS, has been called “one of the deepest and wisest series ever on television,” leveraging “the inherent entertainment capacity of the medium to educate millions of Americans about the histories and cultures of our nation and the world.”

8.3.4
Henry Louis Gates, Jr.’s Bio19 KB

Read More

Professor Gates’s 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. His latest projects are the history series, Reconstruction: America after the Civil War (PBS, 2019), winner of the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award, and the related books, Dark Sky Rising: Reconstruction and the Dawn of Jim Crow, with Tonya Bolden (Scholastic, 2019), and Stony the Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy, and the Rise of Jim Crow (Penguin Random House, 2019), a New York Times Notable Book of 2019.

Having written for such leading publications as The New Yorker, The New York Times, and Time, Professor Gates serves as chairman of TheRoot.com, a daily online magazine he co-founded in 2008, and chair of the Creative Board of FUSION TV. He oversees the Oxford African American Studies Center, the first comprehensive scholarly online resource in the field, and has received grant funding to develop a Finding Your Roots curriculum to teach students science through genetics and genealogy. In 2012, The Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Reader, a collection of his writings edited by Abby Wolf, was published.

The recipient of fifty-seven honorary degrees and numerous prizes, 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 earned his B.A. in History, 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. In 2018, he was one of 15 alumni of African descent honored in the exhibition, Black Cantabs: History Makers, at the Cambridge University Library. He also is an Honorary Fellow, Clare College, at the University of Cambridge.

Professor Gates has directed the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research—now the Hutchins Center—since arriving at Harvard in 1991, and during his first fifteen years on campus, he 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. He 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. He also is the former chair of the Pulitzer Prize board. In 2017, the Organization of American States named Gates a Goodwill Ambassador for the Rights of People of African Descent in the Americas. In 2011, his portrait, by Yuqi Wang, was hung in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.

Books

100 Amazing Facts about the Negro
Henry Louis Gates, Jr. 2017. 100 Amazing Facts about the Negro. Pantheon. Abstract
The first edition of Joel Augustus Rogers’s now legendary 100 Amazing Facts About the Negro with Complete Proof, published in 1934, was billed as “A Negro ‘Believe It or Not.’” Rogers’s little book was priceless because he was delivering enlightenment and pride, steeped in historical research, to a people too long starved on the lie that they were worth nothing. For African Americans of the Jim Crow era, Rogers’s was their first black history teacher. But Rogers was not always shy about embellishing the “facts” and minimizing ambiguity; neither was he above shock journalism now and then.
 
With élan and erudition—and with winning enthusiasm—Henry Louis Gates, Jr. gives us a corrective yet loving homage to Roger’s work.
And Still I Rise: Black America Since MLK
Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and Kevin M. Burke. 2015. And Still I Rise: Black America Since MLK. Ecco/HarperCollins. Publisher's Version Abstract

The companion book to Henry Louis Gates, Jr.’s PBS series, And Still I Rise—a timeline and chronicle of the past fifty years of black history in the U.S. in more than 350 photos.

Beginning with the assassination of Malcolm X in February 1965, And Still I Rise: From Black Power to the White House explores the last half-century of the African American experience.

Os Negros Na América Latina
Henry Louis Gates, Jr. 2014. Os Negros Na América Latina. Companhia das Letras. Abstract

Latin American Edition of 'Black in Latin America'

Segundo Henry Louis Gates Jr., a história da diáspora africana é em grande medida a história dos ciclos econômicos - mineração, açúcar, tabaco, pecuária - das colônias europeias no Novo Mundo. A partir da descoberta da América, milhões de homens e mulheres foram transportados em horríveis condições até portos como os de Havana, Veracruz e Salvador. Aqueles que sobreviviam à viagem em geral trabalhavam até a morte nas fazendas, minas e cidades coloniais, assim como seus descendentes.

  •  
  • 1 of 5
  • »

Films

Black America Since MLK: And Still I Rise
Henry Louis Gates, Jr. 2016. Black America Since MLK: And Still I Rise. Writer, narrator, and executive producer. Four-hour series, PBS, November 15 – November 22, 2016. Abstract
In his new four-hour series, BLACK AMERICA SINCE MLK: AND STILL I RISE, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. embarks on a deeply personal journey through the last fifty years of African American history. Joined by leading scholars, celebrities, and a dynamic cast of people who shaped these years, Gates travels from the victories of the civil rights movement up to today, asking profound questions about the state of black America—and our nation as a whole.
Finding Your Roots, Season 2
Henry Louis Gates, Jr. 2014. Finding Your Roots, Season 2. Writer, narrator, and executive producer. Television series, PBS (ten, one-hour episodes): September 23 – November 25, 2014. Abstract
Explore the heritages and ancestries of leading entertainers, athletes, chefs, and media personalities in season two of Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
12 Years a Slave
2013. 12 Years a Slave. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., historical consultant. Feature film directed by Steve McQueen, Fox Searchlight Pictures. Abstract
Award-winning historical slave-narrative drama directed by Steve McQueen and starring Chiwetel Ejiofor. The film follows the experience of Solomon Northup (Ejiofor), an African-American living with a wife and two children in Saratoga, New York, who is kidnapped and sold into slavery by men claiming to offer him work as a circus musician. Transported by ship to New Orleans, it isn't long before he is given a new name and sold to William Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch), a relatively empathetic slave owner. But confrontations with the cruel and violent overseer John Tibeats (Paul Dano) lead to Solomon being passed on by Ford to the extremely abusive and alcoholic planter Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender), who rules his slaves with a whip in one hand and a Bible in the other. Believing the only hope of regaining his freedom is to remain passive for the time being, Solomon ceases fighting against the illegitimacy of his situation until salvation is offered to him by a kindly labourer named Bass (Brad Pitt). The film won three Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress (Lupita Nyong'o) and Best Adapted Screenplay, and won the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture - Drama and BAFTAs for Best Leading Actor (Ejiofor) and Best Film.
Many Rivers to Cross: The African Americans
Henry Louis Gates, Jr. 2013. Many Rivers to Cross: The African Americans. Writer, narrator, and executive producer. Six-hour series, PBS, October 22 - November 26, 2013. Abstract
This six-hour series chronicles the full sweep of African-American history, from the origins of slavery on the African continent through more than four centuries of remarkable historic events up to the present. Survey the full sweep of African-American history with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. 
Finding Your Roots, Season 1
Henry Louis Gates, Jr. 2012. Finding Your Roots, Season 1. Writer, narrator, and executive producer. Television series, PBS (ten, one-hour episodes): March 25 - May 20, 2012. Abstract
The basic drive to discover who we are and where we come from is at the core of Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Continuing on the quest begun in his previous projects, African American Lives, African American Lives 2, and Faces of America, Gates finds new ways to get into the DNA of American culture.
Black in Latin America
Henry Louis Gates, Jr. 2011. Black in Latin America. Writer, narrator, and executive producer. Four-hour series, PBS, April 19 - May 10, 2011. Abstract
Henry Louis Gates, Jr. uncovers Latin America's African roots in this four-part series. Black in Latin America is a quest to discover how Africa and Europe combined to create the vibrant cultures of Latin America, with a rich legacy of thoughtful, articulate subjects whose stories are astonishingly moving and irresistibly compelling.

Edited Books

Albert Murray: Collected Novels & Poems
Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and Paul Devlin, ed. 2018. Albert Murray: Collected Novels & Poems. Library of America. Abstract
One of the leading cultural critics of his generation, Albert Murray was also the author of an extraordinary quartet of semi-autobiographical novels, vivid impressionistic portraits of black life in the Deep South in the 1920s and '30s and in prewar New York City. Train Whistle Guitar (1974) introduces Murray's recurring narrator and protagonist, Scooter, a "Southern jackrabbit raised in a briarpatch" too nimble ever to receive a scratch. Scooter's education in books, music, and the blue-steel bent-note blues-ballad realities of American life continues in The Spyglass Tree (1991), Murray's "Portrait of the Artist as a Tuskegee Undergraduate." The Seven League Boots (1996) follows Scooter as he becomes a bass player in a touring band not unlike Duke Ellington's, and The Magic Keys (2005), in which Scooter at last finds his true vocation as a writer in Greenwich Village, is an elegaic reverie on an artist's life. Editors Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Paul Devlin round out the volume with a selection of Murray's remarkable poems, including 11 unpublished pieces from his notebooks, and two rare examples of his work as a short story writer.
Twelve Years a Slave: Norton Critical Edition
Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and Kevin M. Burke, ed. 2017. Twelve Years a Slave: Norton Critical Edition. W.W. Norton. Abstract
This Norton Critical Edition of Solomon Northup’s harrowing autobiography is based on the 1853 first edition. It is accompanied by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Kevin Burke’s introduction and detailed explanatory footnotes.
The Portable Nineteenth-Century African American Women Writers
Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and Hollis Robbins, ed. 2017. The Portable Nineteenth-Century African American Women Writers. Penguin Classics. Abstract
The Portable Nineteenth-Century African American Women Writers is the most comprehensive anthology of its kind: an extraordinary range of voices offering the expressions of African American women in print before, during, and after the Civil War. Edited by Hollis Robbins and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., this collection comprises work from forty-nine writers arranged into sections of memoir, poetry, and essays on feminism, education, and the legacy of African American women writers. Many of these pieces engage with social movements like abolition, women’s suffrage, temperance, and civil rights, but the thematic center is the intellect and personal ambition of African American women. The diverse selection includes well-known writers like Sojourner Truth, Hannah Crafts, and Harriet Jacobs, as well as lesser-known writers like Ella Sheppard, who offers a firsthand account of life in the world-famous Fisk Jubilee Singers. Taken together, these incredible works insist that the writing of African American women writers be read, remembered, and addressed.
The Annotated African American Folktales
Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and Maria Tatar, ed. 2017. The Annotated African American Folktales. Liveright. Abstract

These nearly 150 African American folktales animate our past and reclaim a lost cultural legacy to redefine American literature.

Drawing from the great folklorists of the past while expanding African American lore with dozens of tales rarely seen before, The Annotated African American Folktales revolutionizes the canon like no other volume. Following in the tradition of such classics as Arthur Huff Fauset's "Negro Folk Tales from the South" (1927), Zora Neale Hurston's Mules and Men (1935), and Virginia Hamilton's The People Could Fly (1985), acclaimed scholars Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Maria Tatar assemble a groundbreaking collection of folktales, myths, and legends that revitalizes a vibrant African American past to produce the most comprehensive and ambitious collection of African American folktales ever published in American literary history. Arguing for the value of these deceptively simple stories as part of a sophisticated, complex, and heterogeneous cultural heritage, Gates and Tatar show how these remarkable stories deserve a place alongside the classic works of African American literature, and American literature more broadly.

Opening with two introductory essays and twenty seminal African tales as historical background, Gates and Tatar present nearly 150 African American stories, among them familiar Brer Rabbit classics, but also stories like "The Talking Skull" and "Witches Who Ride," as well as out-of-print tales from the 1890s' Southern Workman. Beginning with the figure of Anansi, the African trickster, master of improvisation―a spider who plots and weaves in scandalous ways―The Annotated African American Folktales then goes on to draw Caribbean and Creole tales into the orbit of the folkloric canon. It retrieves stories not seen since the Harlem Renaissance and brings back archival tales of "Negro folklore" that Booker T. Washington proclaimed had emanated from a "grapevine" that existed even before the American Revolution, stories brought over by slaves who had survived the Middle Passage. Furthermore, Gates and Tatar's volume not only defines a new canon but reveals how these folktales were hijacked and misappropriated in previous incarnations, egregiously by Joel Chandler Harris, a Southern newspaperman, as well as by Walt Disney, who cannibalized and capitalized on Harris's volumes by creating cartoon characters drawn from this African American lore.

Dictionary of Caribbean and Afro-Latin American Biography
Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and Franklin W. Knight, ed. 2016. Dictionary of Caribbean and Afro-Latin American Biography. Oxford University Press. Abstract
From Toussaint L’Ouverture to Pelé, the Dictionary of Caribbean and Afro-Latin American Biography will provide a comprehensive overview of the lives of Caribbeans and Afro-Latin Americans who are historically significant. The project will be unprecedented in scale, covering the entire Caribbean, and the Afro-descended populations throughout Latin America, including people who spoke and wrote Creole, Dutch, English, French, Portuguese, and Spanish. It will also encompass the full scope of history, with entries on figures from the first forced slave migrations in the sixteenth centuries, to entries on living persons such as the Haitian musician and politician Wyclef Jean and the Cuban author and poet Nancy Morejón. Individuals will be drawn from all walks of life including philosophers, politicians, activists, entertainers, scholars, poets, scientists, religious figures, kings, and everyday people whose lives have contributed to the history of the Caribbean and Latin America.
The Portable Frederick Douglass
Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and John Stauffer, ed. 2016. The Portable Frederick Douglass. Penguin Classics. Abstract
This compact volume offers a full course on the remarkable, diverse career of Frederick Douglass, letting us hear once more a necessary historical figure whose guiding voice is needed now as urgently as ever. Edited by renowned scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and Pulitzer Prize–nominated historian John Stauffer, The Portable Frederick Douglass includes the full range of Douglass’s works: the complete Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, as well as extracts from My Bondage and My Freedom and Life and Times of Frederick DouglassThe Heroic Slave, one of the first works of African American fiction; the brilliant speeches that launched his political career and that constitute the greatest oratory of the Civil War era; and his journalism, which ranges from cultural and political critique (including his early support for women’s equality) to law, history, philosophy, literature, art, and international affairs, including a never-before-published essay on Haitian revolutionary Toussaint L’Ouverture.
  •  
  • 1 of 3
  • »

Projects