Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (born September 16, 1950, Piedmont, West
Virginia) is a literary critic, educator, scholar, writer, editor,
and public intellectual. Gates currently serves as the Alphonse
Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University, where he is
Director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African
American Research. The recipient of nearly 50 honorary degrees and
numerous academic and social action awards, Gates was named a
MacArthur Fellow in 1981 and was listed in Time among its "25 Most
Influential Americans" in 1997.
As a literary historian committed to the preservation and study
of historical texts, Gates has been integral to the Black
Periodical Literature Project, an archive of black newspapers and
magazines. As a prominent black intellectual, Gates has focused
throughout his career not only on his research and teaching but on
building academic institutions to study black culture.
Additionally, he has worked to bring about social, educational, and
intellectual equality for black Americans and has written pieces in
The New York Times that defend rap music and an article in Sports
Illustrated that criticizes black youth culture for glorifying
basketball over education. In 1992, he received a George Polk Award
for his social commentary in The New York Times.