Jan. 19: Roots: Genealogy, Genetics and African American History

Where: Cordiner Hall

When: Wednesday, January 19, 7:00 PM


GatesHenry 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).  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 the author of several works of literary criticism, including “Figures in Black: Words, Signs and the ‘Racial’ Self” (Oxford University Press, 1987); and “The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of Afro-American Literary Criticism” (Oxford, 1988), winner of the American Book Award in 1989. He authenticated and facilitated the publication, in 1983, 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. Two decades later, in 2002, Professor Gates authenticated and published “The Bondwoman's Narrative” by Hannah Crafts, dating from the early 1850s and now considered one of the first novels written by an African American woman. He is the co-author, with Cornel West, of “The Future of the Race” (Knopf, 1996), and the author of a memoir, “Colored People” (Knopf, 1994), that traces his childhood experiences in a small West Virginia town in the 1950s and 1960s. Among his other books are “The Trials of Phillis Wheatley: America's First Black Poet and Her Encounters with the Founding Fathers” (Basic Civitas Books, 2003); “Thirteen Ways of Looking at A Black Man” (Random House, 1997); and “Loose Canons: Notes on the Culture Wars” (Oxford 1992). He is completing a book on race and writing in the eighteenth century, entitled "Black Letters and the Enlightenment."

Professor Gates served as chair of the Department of African and African American Studies at Harvard from 1991 to 2006. He serves on the boards of the New York Public Library, the Whitney Museum, Lincoln Center Theater, Jazz at Lincoln Center, the Aspen Institute, the Brookings Institution, the Studio Museum of Harlem, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford.

Funded by the Office of the President, Mabel Groseclose Endowed Lectures, the Whitman Events Board and the Intercultural Center.

This event is free and open to the public.