Henry Louis Gates Jr. headshot

Henry Louis Gates Jr., the 2021 PEN/Audible Literary Service Awardee

Henry Louis Gates Jr. is the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and Director of the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research at Harvard University.

Emmy and Peabody Award-winning filmmaker, literary scholar, journalist, cultural critic, and institution builder, Professor Gates has authored or co-authored more than 20 books and created more than 20 documentary films, including The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross, Black in Latin America, Black America since MLK: And Still I Rise, Africa’s Great Civilizations, Reconstruction: America after the Civil War, The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This is Our Song,, and Finding Your Roots, his groundbreaking genealogy series now in its seventh season on PBS.

The recipient of 58 honorary degrees, 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. A native of Piedmont, West Virginia, Gates earned his BA in History, summa cum laude, from Yale University in 1973, and his MA and PhD in English Literature from Clare College at the University of Cambridge in 1979. He also is an Honorary Fellow, Clare College, at the University of Cambridge.

A former chair of the Pulitzer Prize board, he is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and serves on a wide array of boards, including the New York Public Library, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the Aspen Institute, Jazz at Lincoln Center, the Whitney Museum of American Art, Library of America, and the Brookings Institution. In 2011, his portrait, by Yuqi Wang, was hung in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.

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