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Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., 1950 Click on the MEDIA ITEMS below for more information


Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., 1950 -

Henry Louis "Skip" Gates, Jr. was born in Keyser and raised in Piedmont, Mineral County, West Virginia. This is located just across the Potomac River from Westernport and Luke, Maryland in the southwestern portion of Allegany County. His father, Henry Louis Gates, Sr., worked at the nearby paper-mill, the West Virginia Pulp and Paper Company during the day, and as a night janitor at the local telephone company building. His mother, Pauline Coleman Gates, helped provide for the family by cleaning houses.

After graduating from the local schools, Henry attended Potomac State College for two years and went on to Yale University where he graduated summa cum laude with a degree in History in 1973. He received his Masters Degree from England's Cambridge University in 1974, and in 1979, became the first African-American to receive a PhD from that institution in its 800 year history.

Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is one of the nation's most respected and celebrated literary scholars and has edited numerous historical works and literary collections. He is currently the Director of the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University. His book about growing up in Piedmont, Colored People: A Memoir, was published in 1994. It is an account of what it was like growing up in this area on the threshold of integration, as well as the story of his own Gates and Coleman families.

The author's biography in Colored People: A Memoir at that time notes he worked as a London correspondent for Time Magazine prior to receiving his degree from Cambridge. He had also written for the Village Voice, the New Yorker, Harper's, the New York Times, and the New York Review of Books.

The following biography is taken from the Harvard University Graduate Program in the History of American Civilization website, updated October 3, 2007

Henry Louis Gates, Jr., is the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and the Director of the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University.

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. He is co-editor 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). Oxford University Press published an expanded five-volume edition of the encyclopedia in 2005.

He is most recently the author of Finding Oprah's Roots, Finding Your Own (Crown, 2007), a meditation on genetics, genealogy, and race. His other recent books are America Behind the Color Line: Dialogues with African Americans (Warner Books, 2004), African American Lives, co-edited with Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham (Oxford, 2004), and The Annotated Uncle Tom's Cabin, edited with Hollis Robbins (W. W. Norton, 2006).

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.

Professor Gates is currently at work on a four-hour sequel to African American Lives, which is scheduled to air in February 2008.


Photograph: Cumberland Times-News

Information from the Cumberland Times-News articles, "Gates Part of USA Weekend Cover Story", February 8, 2003; "PBS Films Black History Series in Cumberland", January 27, 2006; "Gates Sells Africana.com Web Site", September 11, 2000, and the book, Colored People: A Memoir, by Henry Louis Gates, 1994, Knopf Publishing, New York.

Collection Location:
Allegany County, Maryland

African Americans, History; Allegany County (Md.), History.

Allegany County (Md.), 1890-2008

Western Maryland Regional Library
100 South Potomac Street
Hagerstown, Maryland 21740

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