Henry Louis Gates, Jr. biography
SynopsisHenry Louis Gates, Jr. is a highly regarded African-American educator and scholar. He directs of the W. E. B. DuBois Institute for African and African-American Research at Harvard. He received a MacArthur Foundation grant in 1981 to support his research for the Black Periodical Literary Project. He entered the public eye in 2009 related to a conflicting report of a break-in and racial prejudice.
Early AccomplishmentsEducator, author, editor. Born on September 16, 1950, in Keyser, West Virginia. Gates excelled as a student, graduating from Yale University in 1973 with a degree in history. He continued his education at Clare College, which is part of Cambridge University in England. He finished his doctorate degree in 1979, making him the first African-American to receive a Ph.D. from the university.
In the 1980s Gates became known as a leading scholar of African-American literature, history, and culture. He built his reputation in part on his talents as a researcher. At the start of the decade, he began working on the Black Periodical Literature Project, which uncovered lost literary works published in 1800s. Gates received a grant from the prestigious MacArthur Foundation in 1981, which helped support his scholarship in African-American literature. He had rediscovered what is believed to be the first novel published by an African-American in the United States. Gates republished the 1859 work by Harriet E. Wilson entitled Our Nig in 1983.
Gates served an editor on several anthologies and collections of African-American literature and contributed to the field of literary theory with such works as Black Literature and Literary Theory (1984) and The Signifying Monkey: Towards a Theory of Afro-American Literary Criticism (1988). In 1991, Gates became the head of the African-American studies department at Harvard University. He is credited with transforming the school's African American studies program. Gates is now the director of the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African-American Research at the university.
DocumentariesRecently, Gates has been involved in a number of interesting educational projects for television. He wrote and produced several documentaries: Wonders of the African World (2000), America Beyond the Color Line (2004), and African American Lives (2006). Gates has plans for more documentaries, including a documentary special on the heritage of talk show host Oprah Winfrey and a sequel to African American Lives.
Gates has also earned numerous honors. In addition to his MacArthur Fellowship, he was chosen by the National Endowment for the Humanities to give the Jefferson Lecture, was inducted into the Sons of the American Revolution in 2006, and named as one of Time magazine's 25 Most Influential Americans in 2007. He also has more than 50 honorary degrees.
ControversyGates returned to the public eye in July 2009, when a police officer responded to a call reporting a break-in at the Gates home Cambridge, Massachusetts. In reality, Gates and his African-American driver were attempting to get into the house after having trouble with the door. Reports conflict on the what happened next: some say that the officer refused to identify himself after Gates asked for his name and badge number, while others say that Gates refused to answer the officer's questions and became disorderly after he belived the policer officer was guilty of racism. In the aftermath of this incident, President Barack Obama said he believed the police had "acted stupidly." The comment opened the president to public criticism on the issue.
Gates has been married to Sharon Lynn Adams since 1979. Gates and his wife have two daughters, Maude and Elizabeth.