MacArthur Fellows Program

Henry Louis Gates Jr.

Literary Critic | Class of June 1981

Literary Critic
New Haven, Connecticut
31 at time of award
Published June 1, 1981

About Henry's Work

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is a literary critic who focuses on the literary history and theory of the African and African-American traditions.

He investigates language use in the black vernacular and formal traditions, interpretive systems of black cultures in Africa, the Caribbean, and the United States, and the relations of these systems to contemporary literary theory.  While he draws principally upon Afro-American materials, Gates also writes about Yoruba culture in Africa and Latin America.  His books include Black Literature and Literary Theory (1984), Figures in Black: Words, Signs, and the Racial Self (1987), The Signifying Monkey (1989), Loose Canons: Notes on the Culture Wars (1992), Colored People: A Memoir (1994), The Future of the Race (1996), Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Man (1997), and The Wonders of the African World (1999).  He is also the co-editor of Encarta Africana (CD-ROM, 1999), Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience (1999) and The African American Century: How Black Americans Have Shaped Our Century (2000).


Gates is the W. E. B. Du Bois Professor of Humanities and the chair of the Department of African American Studies at Harvard University.

Gates received a B.A. (1973) from Yale University, and an M.A. (1974) and a Ph.D. (1979) from the University of Cambridge.

Last updated January 1, 2005.

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