Henry Louis Gates Jr., the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and director of the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research at Harvard University, was selected as the recipient of the Don M. Randel Award for Humanistic Studies from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. The award — which is being given for only the seventh time since it was established in 1975 — recognizes remarkable scholars whose work shapes our inner lives and our understanding of the world around us.
Professor Gates, who has been a contributor to JBHE, has authored or co-authored 25 books including the recent work Stony the Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy, and the Rise of Jim Crow (Penguin Press, 2019). He has also created more than 20 documentary films and television programs, including the Emmy Award-winning “The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross.”
David Oxtoby, president of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences stated that “Professor Gates embodies the power and spirit of humanistic pursuits. His passion, curiosity, and rigor have changed the way people think and act across disciplines and divides. We are moved by a blazing intellect that shines new light in which others can see more of themselves and the world around them.“
“It gives me an enormous amount of pleasure to accept this award in a spirit of fellowship for those of us who love and honor the great tradition of scholarship in the humanities, and with the journeys of my ancestors very much top of mind,” said Professor Gates. “When John Adams and his colleagues founded the American Academy in 1780, my fourth great maternal grandfather, a Free African American named John Redman, had been serving as a Patriot in the Continental Army for two years. Little could John Adams — or, for that matter, my ancestor — imagine that 213 years later, a Black man’s descendant would be inducted into this fledgling academy, or that 241 years later, that descendant would be honored by the Academy for scholarship in what Adams would have called ‘the arts and sciences.’”
Professor Gates earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Yale University. He holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in English language and literature from Clare College at the University of Cambridge. He joined the faculty at Harvard in 1991.