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Highlights 2008

Henry Louis Gates Jr.

Closing Plenary
Saturday, July 19, 1:15 p.m.

Henry Louis Gates Jr.Henry Louis Gates Jr. 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 coeditor, with K. Anthony Appiah, of the encyclopedia Encarta Africana published on CD-ROM and in book form under the title Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience. An expanded five-volume edition of the encyclopedia was published in 2005.

In 2006, Gates wrote and produced the PBS documentary African American Lives, the first documentary series to employ genealogy and science to provide an understanding of African American history. A year later, 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 four-hour sequel to African American Lives was aired on PBS last February.

Gates also wrote and produced the documentaries Wonders of the African World and America Beyond the Color Line for the BBC and PBS, and authored the companion volumes to both series.

He is most recently the author of Finding Oprah's Roots: Finding Your Own, a meditation on genetics, genealogy, and race. His other recent books are America Behind the Color Line: Dialogues with African Americans; African American Lives, coedited with Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham; and The Annotated Uncle Tom's Cabin, edited with Hollis Robbins. He is the author of several works of literary criticism, including Figures in Black: Words, Signs and the "Racial" Self and The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of African-American Literary Criticism, winner of the American Book Award in 1989.

Gates is the coauthor, with Cornel West, of The Future of the Race and the author of a memoir, Colored People, 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; Thirteen Ways of Looking at A Black Man; and Loose Canons: Notes on the Culture Wars. He is completing a book on race and writing in the eighteenth century, entitled Black Letters and the Enlightenment.

He has edited several influential anthologies, including The Norton Anthology of African American Literature and The Schomburg Library of Nineteenth-Century Black Women Writers.

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. His honors and grants include a MacArthur Fellowship, the George Polk Award for Social Commentary, inclusion in Time magazine's "25 Most Influential Americans" list (1997), a National Humanities Medal, election to the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Jefferson Lectureship, a visiting Membership at the School of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, and the Jay B. Hubbell Award for Lifetime Achievement in American Literary Studies from the Modern Language Association. He has received 44 honorary degrees, from institutions including the University of Pennsylvania, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, New York University, University of Massachusetts-Boston, Williams College, Emory University, University of Toronto, Howard University, University of Vermont, Berea College, and the University of Benin. 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.

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