Henry Louis Gates Jr.

American literary critic, professor and historian (born 1950)

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (born September 16, 1950) is an American literary critic, educator, scholar, writer, editor, and public intellectual . He is a Harvard University professor and Director of the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research.

Gates in 2007


  • There haven’t been fundamental structural changes in America. There’s been a very important symbolic change and that is the election of Barack Obama. But the only black people who truly live in a post-racial world in America all live in a very nice house on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Quotes about Henry Louis Gates Jr.

  • Henry Louis Gates told me that I must assert that I am first and foremost a poet, not just an activist poet. My work encompasses activist poetry but also does a lot more than protest. I am reinventing bicultural forms. I am an innovator: the creator of the Chinese-American quatrain, of the lyric manifesto, of erotic haiku and remix sonnets!
  • The aim of fiction is to break down stereotypes. Unfortunately, the publishing and academic industries seem to profit more from reinforcing stereotypes. This is what African American intellectuals have to deal with too. That's why I feel I'm on the same wavelength with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Cornel West, James Alan McPherson. Why should a minority person be made to feel guilty because she believes education leads to both self-improvement and national enlightenment? To me, class is as divisive as race.
    • 1996 interview in Conversations with Bharati Mukherjee Edited by Bradley C. Edwards (2009)
  • He manages to combine academia with the public sphere in a way that I find wonderful
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