Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

Professor / Writer

Born: 16 September 1950
Birthplace: Keyser, West Virginia
Best known as: The Harvard professor and African-American scholar who was arrested for disorderly conduct in 2009

Henry Louis Gates, Jr., is a professor at Harvard University, the author of many books of literary criticism and African American history, and the director of Harvard's W.E.B. DuBois Institute for African and African American Research. Gates has been a prominent scholar in African-American studies for decades. He graduated from Yale with a history degree in 1973, then went on to get MA and PhD degrees from Clare College at Cambridge University in England. He taught at Yale (1976-85), Cornell (1985-89) and Duke (1989-91) before landing at Harvard in 1991. By that time Gates had become a well-known author and a strong proponent of black literature and culture. Among his many books are The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of Afro-American Literary Criticism (1988), Loose Canons: Notes on the Culture Wars (1992), The Annotated Uncle Tom's Cabin (2006), and Colored People, his 1994 memoir about his childhood in West Virginia. He has written often for The New Yorker, Time and other magazines and edits The Root, an online magazine. He was given a "genius" grant by the MacArthur Foundation in 1991. Gates also hosted the 2006 PBS TV series African American Lives and the 1998 PBS series Wonders of the African World.

Despite his many books and achievements, Gates may be best known for a much-talked-about arrest on 16 July 2009. Police, after responding to a mistaken burglary call from a passerby, arrested Gates at his home near Harvard in Cambridge, Massachusetts and charged him with disorderly conduct. The charge was dropped the next day, but the incident led to an explosion of public discussion (and angry arguments) in the national media. Eventually President Barack Obama invited Gates and the arresting officer, Sgt. James Crowley, to discuss the incident over a beer at the White House.

Extra credit:

Gates's nickname is "Skip"... Gates attended Cambridge after graduating from Yale, but didn't formally receive his MA and PhD until 1979... Gates said in a 2009 interview that he is 5'7" tall... Gates walks with a cane due to a fractured hip joint at age 14 that left his right leg shorter than his left.

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