Henry Louis Gates
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 and Peabody Award-winning filmmaker, literary scholar, journalist, cultural critic, and institution builder, Professor Gates’s most recent books are Stony the Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy, and the Rise of Jim Crow and The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song. He has also produced and hosted more than 20 documentary films, most recently The Black Church on PBS and Black Art: In the Absence of Light for HBO. Finding Your Roots, his groundbreaking genealogy and genetics series, is now in its seventh season on PBS.
Gates is a recipient of a number of honorary degrees, most recently a Litt.D. from his alma mater, the University of Cambridge. 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. A native of Piedmont, West Virginia, Gates 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 Cambridge in 1979, where he is also an Honorary Fellow. A former chair of the Pulitzer Prize board, 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, the Whitney Museum of American Art, Library of America, and The Studio Museum of Harlem. In 2011, his portrait, by Yuqi Wang, was hung in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. He is a member of the Phi Beta Kappa honor society.
The Academy honored Professor Gates with the Don M. Randel Award for Humanistic Studies in 2021. The award – being given for only the seventh time since it was established in 1975 – recognizes remarkable scholars whose work shapes our inner lives and our understanding of the world around us.