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.”

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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

The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross
Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and Donald Yacovone. 2013. The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross. Smiley Books. Abstract
The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross is the companion book to the six-part, six hour documentary of the same name, airing on national, primetime public television in the fall of 2013. The series is the first to air since 1968 that chronicles the full sweep of 500 years of African American history, from the origins of slavery on the African continent and the arrival of the first black conquistador, Juan Garrido, in Florida in 1513, through five centuries of remarkable historic events right up to today—when Barack Obama is serving his second term as President, yet our country remains deeply divided by race and class.
The Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Reader
Henry Louis Gates, Jr. 2012. The Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Reader. Edited by Abby Wolf. Basic Civitas Books. Abstract
Educator, writer, critic, intellectual, film-maker-Henry Louis Gates, Jr., has been widely praised as being one of America's most prominent and prolific scholars. In what will be an essential volume, The Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Reader collects three decades of writings from his many fields of interest and expertise.
Black in Latin America
Henry Louis Gates, Jr. 2011. Black in Latin America. New York University Press. Abstract
12.5 million Africans were shipped to the New World during the Middle Passage. While just over 11.0 million survived the arduous journey, only about 450,000 of them arrived in the United States. The rest—over ten and a half million—were taken to the Caribbean and Latin America. This astonishing fact changes our entire picture of the history of slavery in the Western hemisphere, and of its lasting cultural impact. These millions of Africans created new and vibrant cultures, magnificently compelling syntheses of various African, English, French, Portuguese, and Spanish influences.

Films

Finding Your Roots, Season 5
Henry Louis Gates, Jr. 2019. Finding Your Roots, Season 5. Writer, narrator, and executive producer. Television series, PBS (ten, one-hour episodes): Beginning January 8, 2019. Abstract
Henry Louis Gates, Jr. helps leading artists, politicians and others discover the surprising stories within their own family trees. Each episode weaves together stories from cutting-edge DNA analysis and old school genealogical detective work.
Reconstruction: America after the Civil War
Henry Louis Gates, Jr. 2019. Reconstruction: America after the Civil War. Writer, host, and executive producer. Four-hour series, PBS, April 9 – April 16, 2019. Abstract

Henry Louis Gates Jr. presents a vital new four-hour documentary series on Reconstruction: America After the Civil War. The series explores the transformative years following the American Civil War, when the nation struggled to rebuild itself in the face of profound loss, massive destruction, and revolutionary social change. The twelve years that composed the post-war Reconstruction era (1865-77) witnessed a seismic shift in the meaning and makeup of our democracy, with millions of former slaves and free black people seeking out their rightful place as equal citizens under the law. Though tragically short-lived, this bold democratic experiment was, in the words of W. E. B. Du Bois, a ‘brief moment in the sun’ for African Americans, when they could advance, and achieve, education, exercise their right to vote, and run for and win public office.

Birth of a Movement
Henry Louis Gates, Jr. 2017. Birth of a Movement. Executive producer. PBS, February 6, 2017. Abstract

In 1915, African American newspaper editor and activist William M. Trotter waged a battle against D.W. Griffith’s notoriously Ku Klux Klan-friendly blockbuster The Birth of a Nation, which unleashed a fight still raging today about race relations and representation, and the power and influence of Hollywood. The Birth of a Movement features Spike Lee, Reginald Hudlin, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and DJ Spooky.

Africa’s Great Civilizations
Henry Louis Gates, Jr. 2017. Africa’s Great Civilizations. Writer, narrator, and executive producer. Six-hour series, PBS, February 27-March 1, 2017. Abstract
In his new six-hour series, Africa's Great Civilizations, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. takes a new look at the history of Africa, from the birth of humankind to the dawn of the 20th century. This is a breathtaking and personal journey through two hundred thousand years of history, from the origins, on the African continent, of art, writing and civilization itself, through the millennia in which Africa and Africans shaped not only their own rich civilizations, but also the wider world.
Finding Your Roots, Season 4
Henry Louis Gates, Jr. 2017. Finding Your Roots, Season 4. Writer, narrator, and executive producer. Television series, PBS (ten, one-hour episodes): October 3 – December 19, 2017. Abstract
Season four of Finding Your Roots series moves fluidly from Asia and Africa to Europe and the Americas, uniting us all through emotional moments that enrich and enlighten—encouraging us to look at our world through a wider, more inclusive lens.
Finding Your Roots, Season 3
Henry Louis Gates, Jr. 2016. Finding Your Roots, Season 3. Writer, narrator, and executive producer. Television series, PBS (ten, one-hour episodes): January 5 – March 8, 2016. Abstract
Season three of Finding Your Roots explores how diverse racial, religious and ethnic backgrounds challenge many of our long-held national myths.
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Edited Books

Albert Murray: Collected Essays & Memoirs
Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and Paul Devlin, ed. 2016. Albert Murray: Collected Essays & Memoirs. Library of America. Abstract
In his 1970 classic The Omni-Americans, Albert Murray (1916–2013) took aim at protest writers and social scientists who accentuated the “pathology” of race in American life. Against narratives of marginalization and victimhood, Murray argued that black art and culture, particularly jazz and blues, stand at the very headwaters of the American mainstream, and that much of what is best in American art embodies the “blues-hero tradition”— a heritage of grace, wit, and inspired improvisation in the face of adversity. Murray went on to refine these ideas in The Blue Devils of Nada and From the Briarpatch File, and all three landmark collections of essays are gathered here for the first time, together with Murray’s memoir South to a Very Old Place, his brilliant lecture series The Hero and the Blues, his masterpiece of jazz criticism Stomping the Blues, and eight previously uncollected pieces.
The Light of Truth: Writings of an Anti-Lynching Crusader
Wells, Ida B. 2014. The Light of Truth: Writings of an Anti-Lynching Crusader. Edited by Mia Bay and Henry Louis Gates Jr.. Penguin Classics. Abstract

Seventy-one years before Rosa Parks’s courageous act of resistance, police dragged a young black journalist named Ida B. Wells off a train for refusing to give up her seat. The experience shaped Wells’s career, and—when hate crimes touched her life personally—she mounted what was to become her life’s work: an anti-lynching crusade that captured international attention.

This volume covers the entire scope of Wells’s remarkable career, collecting her early writings, articles exposing the horrors of lynching, essays from her travels abroad, and her later journalism. The Light of Truth is both an invaluable resource for study and a testament to Wells’s long career as a civil rights activist.

For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.

The Image of the Black in Western Art, Volume V: The 20th Century Part 1: The Impact of Africa
Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and David Bindman, ed. 2014. The Image of the Black in Western Art, Volume V: The 20th Century Part 1: The Impact of Africa. Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. Abstract
In the 1960s, art patrons Dominique and Jean de Menil founded an image archive showing the ways that people of African descent have been represented in Western art from the ancient world to modern times. Highlights from the image archive, accompanied by essays written by major scholars, appeared in three large-format volumes, consisting of one or more books, that quickly became collector's items. A half-century later, Harvard University Press and the Du Bois Institute are proud to have republished five of the original books and to present five completely new ones, extending the series into the twentieth century.

The Impact of Africa, the first of two books on the twentieth century, looks at changes in the Western perspective on African art and the representation of Africans, and the paradox of their interpretation as simultaneously "primitive" and "modern." The essays include topics such as the new medium of photography, African influences on Picasso and on Josephine Baker's impression of 1920s Paris, and the influential contribution of artists from the Caribbean and Latin American diasporas.
The Image of the Black in Western Art, Volume V: The 20th Century Part 2: The Rise of Black Artists
Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and David Bindman, ed. 2014. The Image of the Black in Western Art, Volume V: The 20th Century Part 2: The Rise of Black Artists. Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. Abstract
In the 1960s, art patrons Dominique and Jean de Menil founded an image archive showing the ways that people of African descent have been represented in Western art from the ancient world to modern times. Highlights from the image archive, accompanied by essays written by major scholars, appeared in three large‐format volumes, consisting of one or more books, that quickly became collector’s items. A half‐century later, Harvard University Press and the Du Bois Institute are proud to have republished five of the original books and five completely new ones, extending the series into the twentieth century.

The Rise of Black Artists, the second of two books on the twentieth century and the final volume in The Image of the Black in Western Art, marks an essential shift in the series and focuses on representation of blacks by black artists in the West. This volume takes on important topics ranging from urban migration within the United States to globalization, to Négritude and cultural hybridity, to the modern black artist’s relationship with European aesthetic traditions and experimentation with new technologies and media. Concentrating on the United States, Europe, and the Caribbean, essays in this volume shed light on topics such as photography, jazz, the importance of political activism to the shaping of black identities, as well as the post-black art world.
African American National Biography
Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, ed. 2013. African American National Biography. Oxford University Press. Abstract
The African American National Biography presents history through a mosaic of the lives of thousands of individuals, illuminating the abiding influence of persons of African descent on the life of this nation from the arrival of Esteban in Spanish Florida in 1529 through to notable black citizens of the present day.

The original eight-volume set has now been expanded to twelve handsome volumes in its second edition, bringing the total number of lives profiled to nearly 5,000. The AANB continues to grow along with the field of African American biographical research, providing for continuous updates to the online edition, each entry written and signed by distinguished scholars. This is a remarkable achievement, a tenfold increase over the number of biographies contained in 2004's award-winning and substantial African American Lives, and featuring such notable new entries as Cory Booker, C. Vivian Stringer, and Michelle Obama.

In addition to Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, W. E. B. Du Bois and Martin Luther King Jr., the AANB includes a wide range of African Americans from all time periods and all walks of life. Lives profiled include those already recognized as giants of black history, figures whose stories have never been told and that readers will be discovering for the first time, and living people who are shaping the era in which we now live. The names within are both famous and nearly-forgotten. In the words of AANB editor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., "These stories, long buried in the dusty archives of history, will never be lost again. And that is what scholarship in the field of African American Studies should be all about."
The Oxford Handbook of African American Citizenship, 1865-Present
Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Claude Steele, Lawrence D. Bobo, Michael Dawson, Gerald Jaynes, Lisa Crooms-Robinson, and Linda Darling-Hammond, ed. 2012. The Oxford Handbook of African American Citizenship, 1865-Present. Oxford University Press. Abstract

When newly-liberated African American slaves attempted to enter the marketplace and exercise their rights as citizens of the United States in 1865, few, if any, Americans expected that, a century and a half later, the class divide between black and white Americans would be as wide as it is today. The United States has faced several potential key turning points in the status of African Americans over the course of its history, yet at each of these points the prevailing understanding of African Americans and their place in the economic and political fabric of the country was at best contested and resolved on the side of second-class citizenship.

The Oxford Handbook of African American Citizenship, 1865-Present seeks to answer the question of what the United States would look like today if, at the end of the Civil War, freed slaves had been granted full political, social and economic rights. It does so by tracing the historical evolution of African American experiences, from the dawn of Reconstruction onward, through the perspectives of sociology, political science, law, economics, education and psychology. As a whole, the book is the first systematic study of the gap between promise and performance of African Americans since 1865. Over the course of thirty-four chapters, written by some of the most eminent scholars of African American studies and across every major social discipline, this handbook presents a full and powerful portrait of the particular hurdles faced by African Americans and the distinctive contributions African Americans have made to the development of U.S. institutions and culture. As such, it tracks where African Americans have been in order to better illuminate the path ahead.

Projects