Henry Louis Gates Jr., Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and the director of the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University, comes to Whitman College to present “Roots: Genealogy, Genetics and African American History,” Jan. 19 in Cordiner Hall at 7 p.m.
“It's huge for Whitman to have landed Professor Gates, surely one of the most in-demand speakers around MLK Day,” said Nadine Knight, assistant professor of English at Whitman and a former student of Gates. “Professor Gates was pivotal in establishing the legitimacy and vitality of the African American literary canon, and his work today is dedicated to bridging the gap between the academic interests of the ‘ivory tower’ and the daily experiences of African Americans. His recent exploration of genealogy and the use of genetic testing to help African Americans discover their roots has been especially popular and inspired new approaches to understanding the African part of African American culture, as well.”
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.
Tune in to a radio interview with Professor Knight on Tuesday, Jan. 18 at 7:30 a.m. on Jim Bock’s morning show,1420 AM.
For a listing of other events celebrating MLK Day, click here.
This event is free and open to the public, thanks to funding by the Whitman College Office of the President, Mabel Groseclose Endowed Lectures, the Whitman Events Board and the Intercultural Center.