Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is an Emmy and Peabody Award-winning filmmaker, literary scholar, journalist, and cultural critic, known for his pioneering theories of African and African American literature. He is currently the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor, having held this title since 2006, as well as the Director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University. He was first recruited to Harvard in 1991 to serve as the W.E.B. Du Bois Professor of the Humanities. Gates has authored and co-authored 24 books, and has produced and hosted over 20 documentary films. The recipient of 56 honorary degrees and numerous prizes, Gates was a member of the first class awarded “genius grants” by the MacArthur Foundation in 1981, and in 1998, he became the first African American scholar to be awarded the National Humanities Medal. In 2009, Gates was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct, which spawned an acerbic national debate around racial profiling as well as public criticism of the Cambridge police department by President Obama.
“The first step toward tolerance is respect. The first step toward respect is knowledge.” - Henry Louis Gates Jr.