Skip Gates
Henry Louis Gates Jr. will remain as chair of the Afro-American Studies Department and director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute. Gates commented, ‘I have been deeply touched by the outpouring of support and affection from my colleagues on the faculty, students at Harvard, President Summers, and Dean Kirby.’ (Staff photo by Justin Ide)

Lawrence H. Summers, president of Harvard University, and William C. Kirby, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS), announced today that W.E.B. Du Bois Professor of the Humanities Henry Louis “Skip” Gates Jr., will continue as chair of the Afro-American Studies Department and director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for Afro-American Research at Harvard University.

“Harvard University is committed to remaining pre-eminent in Afro-American Studies. I am delighted that Professor Gates will continue his leadership of our Department of Afro-American Studies and of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for Afro-American Research,” Summers said.

“I look forward to working with Skip and his colleagues and with those who will join the department and the Du Bois Institute in the months and years ahead. The important issues surrounding the African-American experience deserve Harvard’s fullest attention. Skip brings unsurpassed commitment, energy, and creativity to these critical questions, and we are very pleased that he will continue his significant work here at Harvard,” Summers concluded.

Dean Kirby said, “I am very pleased to announce that Professor Gates will remain at Harvard, and that he will continue to lead us from strength to strength, building an even better department and W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for Afro-American Research. His extraordinary scholarship, vision, and commitment have helped to make Harvard’s Afro-American Studies department pre-eminent in the nation. His charisma, leadership, and unbounded energy have touched the lives of faculty and students across the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and, indeed, the entire University.”

“With the unfortunate departure of Anthony Appiah and Cornel West, the department is in a period of transition. Because of my devotion to the department and the Du Bois Institute, I felt it crucial that I remain here and join my colleagues in this exciting process of rebuilding. In the last few months, we have attracted significant talent to the department, including renowned scholar Evelynn M. Hammonds, and we have the opportunity to bring more people here,” Gates said.

“I have been deeply touched by the outpouring of support and affection from my colleagues on the faculty, students at Harvard, President Summers, and Dean Kirby,” Gates continued. “And, I have no doubt that the administration is committed to maintaining our status as the number one department in our field. Therefore, despite an extremely appealing opportunity to join Professor Appiah and Professor West in building Afro-American studies at Princeton, I have decided to remain on the faculty at Harvard. But, there is no doubt that Princeton has emerged as a major center of Afro-American studies. And, I applaud the leadership and vision of President Tilghman and Provost Gutmann because we need multiple centers of excellence in our field, and Princeton is one of these.”

With 40 honorary degrees, Gates is a world-renowned scholar and teacher of African and African-American history and culture. He has authored seven books and written numerous essays and reviews on a broad range of African and African-American issues, including slavery, race, feminism, dialect, and identity. In 1989 he won the American Book Award for “The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of Afro-American Literary Criticism.” And, he recently completed his second major documentary, “America Beyond the Color Line,” to be aired in 2003.

In 2000, Gates authored, along with Cornel West, the widely acclaimed “The African American Century: How Black Americans Have Shaped Our Century.” That came on the heels of the authoritative and groundbreaking “Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience,” a collaboration with K. Anthony Appiah. It was also published on a CD-ROM as “Encarta Africana” by Microsoft.

Gates, who has been a leading scholar of African-American studies for nearly three decades, began his tenure at Harvard in 1991 after having worked on the faculties of such distinguished universities as Duke, Cornell, and Yale. He is a 1973 summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Yale, and earned his M.A. and Ph.D. (1979) from Clare College, The University of Cambridge. He burst into the view of many Americans in 1983 when he discovered and published “Our Nig; or Sketches From the Life of a Free Black, In a Two Story White House, North. Showing that Slavery’s Shadows Fall Even There.” The slim volume was, at the time, the earliest known novel by an African-American female author. More recently, he authenticated the first novel by a female fugitive slave, “The Bondwoman’s Narrative” by Hanna Crafts.

Gates has received dozens of awards and honors, including the National Humanities Award presented by President Bill Clinton in 1998, the MacArthur Prize, and the Jefferson Lectureship. He has been named one of the “25 Most Influential Americans” by Time magazine.

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