Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr.
Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr. September 16, 1950 – Current age 65
Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr. is the walking embodiment of academic excellence. He has dedicated the majority of his adult life to researching history, and imparting knowledge through education. Gates’ inspiration to excel in the classroom came from his blue-collar upbringing – specifically his mother, Pauline's, encouragement. His mother earned a wage as a housekeeper and Gates' father worked at a paper mill. His mother never missed an opportunity to express her love for her children and to tell them how smart they were. Gates later explained, that this daily affirmation from his mother worked as a self-fulfilling prophecy when he graduated at the top of his high school class in 1968.
Gates was granted admission to Ivy League powerhouse, Yale University. There he earned his bachelor’s in history, but his interest in the continent of Africa was peaked. He spent time studying abroad in Africa. Wanting to help there, he worked in a Tanzanian hospital. Gates returned to the states after his year abroad and graduated from Yale with the highest honors, summa cum laude with a B. A. in history. After completing his undergraduate studies, Gates attended Clare College, the second oldest university in Cambridge. He earned his Master’s and Ph.D. from Clare, an educational distinction at Clare that no other African-American student had ever reached.
Gates lectured at Yale for a few years before leaving for Harvard. Dr. Gates currently serves as Director of Hutchins Center for African & African-American Research at Harvard University. During his first fifteen years on Harvard’s campus, Gates chaired the Afro-American Studies Department and oversaw its transition and expansion into a full-fledged doctoral program. He is the author or co-author of twenty books and his genius is responsible for fifteen documentary films, one of which earned him an Emmy Award. Gates earned the Emmy for Outstanding Historical Program—Long Form for his work writing, hosting, and executive producing The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross, which was a six-part PBS documentary.