Saturday, July 25, 2009

Henry Louis Gates Jr as Big Time Entrepreneur

Henry Louis Gates Jr. the black Harvard professor caught up in the controversy surrounding police responding to a call at his house about a robbery in progress that ended up with his being arrested for disorderly conduct, is quite the entrepreneur.

In addition to teaching at Harvard, in 2000, Gates created, a web site aimed at uniting blacks world-wide, and sold it to Time Warner Inc. for at least $10 million, according to WSJ. In 2007, Gates started a DNA-tracing company, African DNA LLC, after a commercial genealogy service traced his genetic heritage to Europe, discovering he had both Irish and Jewish ancestry. Since 2006, his "African-American Lives" television documentaries have explored African-American genealogy, including an examination of the backgrounds of such celebrities as Oprah Winfrey, Whoopi Goldberg and Chris Tucker.

According to the African DNA web site, Gates is most recently the author of Finding Oprah's Roots, Finding Your Own (Crown, 2007) and the host and executive producer of the2006 PBS series "African American Lives" and its follow-up, "Oprah's Roots."

Gates is Editor-in-Chief of the Oxford African American Studies Center, the first comprehensive scholarly online resource in the field of African American and Africana Studies. He is co-editor, with K. Anthony Appiah, of Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience. With Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, he is the co-editor of the biographical encyclopedia African American Lives (Oxford, 2004), and the online African American National Biography database.

Gates is the author of several other books, including The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of Afro-American Literary Criticism (Oxford, 1988), winner of the 1989 American Book Award, and Colored People: A Memoir (Knopf, 1994).

Gates authenticated and published two landmark African American texts: Our Nig, or, Sketches from the Life of a Free Black (1859), by Harriet Wilson, the first novel published by an African American woman; and The Bondwoman's Narrative by Hannah Crafts, one of the first novels written by an African American woman. In 2006, he and Hollis Robbins co-edited The Annotated Uncle Tom's Cabin, edited with Hollis Robbins (W. W. Norton, 2006).

Gates has written has written for Time magazine, The New Yorker, and The New York Times. He is the editor of several anthologies, including The Norton Anthology of African American Literature (W.W. Norton, 1996). Gates also produced and hosted two previous series for PBS, 1999's "Wonders of the African World" and 2004's "America Beyond the Color Line."

Gates earned his M.A. and Ph.D. in English literature from Clare College at the University of Cambridge. He received a B.A. in history, summa cum laude, from Yale University in 1973. The recipient of 48 honorary degrees and a 1981 MacArthur Foundation "Genius Award," Professor Gates was also named one of Time magazine's "25 Most Influential Americans" in 1997, one of the "100 Most Influential Black Americans" by Ebony in 2005, received a National Humanities Medal in 1998, and in 1999 was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.f

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