Henry Louis Gates

Henry Louis Gates

African American politics. An influential cultural critic, Professor Gates has written a 1994 cover story for Time magazine, numerous articles for the New Yorker, and in September 2004, a biweekly guest column in The New York Times.

In 2006, Professor Gates wrote and produced the PBS documentary also called “African American Lives,” the first documentary series to employ genealogy and genetic 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. The second series, “African American Lives 2,” aired on PBS in February 2008. 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. PBS broadcasted his documentary, “Looking for Lincoln,” in February 2009.

His honors and grants include a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant” (1981), the George Polk Award for Social Commentary (1993), Time magazine’s “25 Most Influential Americans” list (1997), a National Humanities Medal (1998), election to the American Academy of Arts and Letters (1999), the Jefferson Lecture (2002), a Visiting Fellowship at the School of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton (2003-2004), the Jay B. Hubbell Award for Lifetime Achievement in American Literary Studies from the Modern Language Association (2006), ), the Rave Award from Wired Magazine (2007), the Let’s Do It Better Award from of the Columbia University School of Journalism for “African American Lives” (2007), and the Cultures of Peace Award from the City of the Cultures of Peace (2007). 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 earned his 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, in 1973. He became a member of Phi Beta Kappa in his junior year at Yale. Before joining the faculty of Harvard in 1991, he taught at Yale, Cornell, and Duke. He has received 49 honorary degrees, from institutions including the University of Pennsylvania, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, New York University, University of Massachusetts-Boston, Williams College, Emory University, Howard University, University of Toronto, and the University of Benin.

Speaker Details


Finding Oprah’s Roots, Finding Your Own

African American Lives: Genealogy, Genetics, and Black History

In Search of Our Roots

Fee Range

Travels from
Boston, Massachusetts
Books by this Speaker
Client Feedback

"In this informational and intellectually stimulating lecture, Professor Gates delves into the history of W.E.B. Du Bois's three failed attempts to edit a black encyclopedia Britannica, and our efforts to bring Du Bois's dream to fruition." 

--Meeting Executive, University of Pennsylvania


Check Availability

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form