Henry Louis Gates Jr., the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard, accepted the 2009 Sarah Josepha Hale Award on Oct. 3 at the Newport Opera House in Newport, N.H.

The award has been presented annually since 1956, and is one of New England’s oldest and most distinguished literary awards in recognition of a body of work in literature and letters. Gates is the first African-American recipient of the award.