Henry Louis Gates, Jr., is the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and Director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University. Literary scholar, filmmaker, journalist, cultural critic, and institution builder, Professor Gates has authored seventeen books and created thirteen documentary films and film series, including Wonders of the African World, African American Lives, Black in Latin America, and Finding Your Roots, now in its second season on PBS. His six-part PBS documentary series, The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross, which he wrote, executive produced, and hosted, earned the 2013 Peabody Award and NAACP Image Award. Having written for such leading publications as The New Yorker, The New York Times, and Time, Professor Gates now serves as editor-in-chief of TheRoot.com, a daily online magazine, while overseeing the Oxford African American Studies Center, the first comprehensive scholarly online resource in the field. In 2012, The Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Reader, a collection on his writings, was published. Professor Gates’s latest book is Finding Your Roots: The Official Companion to the PBS Series, released by the University of North Carolina Press in 2014.
The recipient of fifty-three 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 English Language and Literature, 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. Professor Gates has directed the W. E. B. 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 also 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.