Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

Henry Louis Gates, Jr., 1950–, American scholar and critic, b. Keyser, W.Va., grad. Yale (B.A. 1973), Cambridge (Ph.D. 1979), where he studied with Wole Soyinka. Gates is an expert on African-American literature and culture. His rediscovery and reinterpretation of historic black literature began in 1981 with his finding, authenticating, and publishing of the first known novel by an African American, Harriet E. Wilson's Our Nig (1859). Since then Gates has been instrumental in bringing other previously lost works to light. His many books of criticism include Figures in Black: Words, Signs, and the Racial Self (1987) and The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of African-American Literary Criticism (1988), in which he develops the notion of "signifyin(g)," a linguistic tradition running throughout black culture that describes things or people by the use of humor, paradox, indirection, boast, and insult. His nonacademic works include Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Man (1997) and Life Upon These Shores (2011). He is also coeditor of The Dictionary of Global Culture (1997) and The Annotated Uncle Tom's Cabin (2006). In 1999 he wrote and hosted a public television series on Africa and wrote a companion text, Wonders of the African World. Gates has taught at several universities, including Yale (1979–85), Cornell (1985–90), and Harvard (1991–), where he is the director of the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research.

See his memoir, Colored People: Letters to My Daughters (1993); A. Wolf, ed., The Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Reader (2012).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of African-American Literary Criticism
Henry Louis Gates Jr.
Oxford University Press, 1989
Loose Canons: Notes on the Culture Wars
Henry Louis Gates Jr.
Oxford University Press, 1993
Social Theory: The Multicultural and Classic Readings
Charles Lemert.
Westview Press, 1999 (2nd edition)
Librarian’s tip: "'Race' as the Trope of the World" by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. begins on p. 532
Pioneers of the Black Atlantic: Five Slave Narratives from the Enlightenment, 1772-1815
Henry Louis Gates Jr.; William L. Andrews.
Civitas, 1998
Librarian’s tip: "Introduction: The Talking Book" by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. begins on p. 1
Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God
Harold Bloom.
Chelsea House, 1987
Librarian’s tip: "A Black and Idiomatic Free Indirect Discourse" by Barbara Johnson and Henry Louis Gates, Jr. begins on p. 73
African American Autobiographers: A Sourcebook
Emmanuel S. Nelson.
Greenwood Press, 2002
Librarian’s tip: "Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (1950- )" beging on p. 147
Honoring the Ancestors: An African Cultural Interpretation of Black Religion and Literature
Donald H. Matthews.
Oxford University Press, 1998
Librarian’s tip: "Black Literary Theory" begins on p. 89
The Two Nations of Black America: The Best of Times, the Worst of Times
Gates, Henry Louis, Jr.
Brookings Review, Vol. 16, No. 2, Spring 1998
Black British Culture and Society: A Text-Reader
Kwesi Owusu.
Routledge, 2000
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 14 "A Reporter at Large: Black London" by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
The New North American Studies: Culture, Writing and the Politics of Re/cognition
Winfried Siemerling.
Routledge, 2004
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 4 "Double Consciousness, African American Tradition, and the Vernacular: Henry Louis Gates and Houston Baker"
W. E. B. Du Bois and American Political Thought: Fabianism and the Color Line
Adolph L. Reed Jr.
Oxford University Press, 1999
Librarian’s tip: "Henry Louis Gates, Jr.: From Signifying Monkey to the Vital Center" begins on p. 138
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