Henry Louis Gates, Jr. - Biography

Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

W.E.B. Du Bois Professor of the Humanities, Harvard University
Chair of Afro-American Studies
Director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for Afro-American Research

Professor Gates is coeditor with K. Anthony Appiah of the encyclopedia Encarta Africana published on CD-ROM by Microsoft (1999), and in book form by Basic Civitas Books under the title Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience (1999). He is the author of Wonders of the African World (1999), the book companion to the six-hour BBC/PBS television series of the same name.

Professor Gates is the author of several works of literary criticism, including Figures in Black: Words, Signs and the ‘Racial’ Self (Oxford University Press, 1987); The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of Afro-American Literary Criticism (Oxford, 1988), 1989 winner of the American Book Award: and Loose Canons: Notes on the Culture Wars (Oxford, 1992.) He has also authored Colored People: A Memoir (Knopf, 1994), which traces his childhood experiences in a small West Virginia town in the 1950s and 1960s; The Future of the Race (Knopf, 1996), co-authored with Cornel West; and Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Man (Random House, 1997). Professor Gates has edited several anthologies, including The Norton Anthology of African American Literature (WW Norton, 1996); and The Oxford-Schomburg Library of Nineteenth Century Black Women Writers (Oxford, 1991). In addition, Professor Gates is coeditor of Transition magazine. An influential cultural critic, Professor Gates’ publications include a 1994 cover story for Time magazine on the new black Renaissance in art, as well as numerous articles for The New Yorker.

Professor Gates earned his MA and Ph.D. in English Literature from Clare College at the University of Cambridge. He received a BA summa cum laude from Yale University in 1973 in English Language and Literature. Before joining the faculty of Harvard in 1991, he taught at Yale, Cornell, and Duke Universities. His honors and grants include a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant” (1981), the George Polk Award for Social Commentary (1993), Chicago Tribune Heartland Award (1994), the Golden Plate Achievement Award (1995), Time magazine’s “25 Most Influential Americans” list (1997), a National Humanities Medal (1998), and election to the American Academy of Arts and Letters (1999).