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Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

Emmy Award Winning Filmmaker, Cultural Critic & Journalist


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. Emmy Award-winning filmmaker, literary scholar, journalist, cultural critic and institution builder, Professor Gates has authored seventeen books and created fourteen documentary films. Host of the popular show Finding Your Roots, Professor Gates is one of the United States' most influential cultural critics and is both an eloquent commentator and formidable intellectual force on multicultural and African American issues.

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. His 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 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, a daily online magazine. 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.

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. 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.

He has received 54 honorary degrees, from institutions including the University of Pennsylvania, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, New York University and Howard University. 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 is widely acknowledged for taking African American studies beyond the ideological bent and bringing it into a scholarly sphere that is equivalent to all other disciplines.


  • 2014: Published Finding Your Roots: The Official Companion to the PBS Series.
  • 2013: Wrote, executive produced and hosted six-part PBS documentary series, The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross (2013), which earned the Emmy Award for Outstanding Historical Program — Long Form.
  • 2007: Author of Finding Oprah's Roots, Finding Your Own.
  • 2006: Received the Jay B. Hubbell Award for Lifetime Achievement in American Literary Studies from the Modern Language Association.
  • 2004-2006: Author of America Behind the Color Line: Dialogues with African Americans, African American Lives, co-edited with Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham and The Annotated Uncle Tom's Cabin, edited with Hollis Robbins.
  • 1999: Co-editor with K. Anthony Appiah of the encyclopedia Encarta Africana published on CD-ROM by Microsoft, and in book form under the title Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience.
  • 1999: Election into the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
  • 1998: Received a National Humanities Medal.
  • 1997: Named one of Time magazine's “25 Most Influential Americans.”
  • 1994-1996: Co-author, with Cornel West, of The Future of the Race and the author of a memoir, Colored People, that traces his childhood experiences in a small West Virginia town in the 1950s and 1960s.
  • 1993: Received the George Polk Award for Social Commentary.
  • 1987-1989: Author of several works of literary criticism, including Figures in Black: Words, Signs and the "Racial" Self and The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of Afro-American Literary Criticism.
  • 1983: Authenticated and facilitated the publication 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.
  • 1981: Received a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant.”
  • 1973: Earned 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.


A Conversation with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

The African Americans: "Many Rivers to Cross"

Finding Your Roots: Genealogy & Genetics

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