In celebration of Black History Month, the Organization of Black Students at the University of Chicago will welcome Henry Louis Gates, Jr. to campus for the annual George E. Kent Lecture, titled this year “Black Identity and Politics in the Age of Globalization,” at 7 p.m. on Thursday, February 22 in Mandel Hall, 1131 E. 57th St.
Gates, the W.E.B. DuBois professor of the humanities at Harvard University, is a scholar, writer, educator and literary critic. He was the first African-American to receive an Andrew W. Mellon fellowship in 1973, on the day after his graduation from Yale University. He also received a MacArthur “genius grant” in 1981, a George Polk Award for Social Commentary in 1993 and a National Humanities Medal in 1998. And in 1997, Time magazine named Gates on the list of “25 Most Influential Americans.”
Before he joined the faculty of Harvard University in 1991, Gates had served as a professor at Yale, Duke and Cornell universities. In addition to serving as a professor at Harvard, he is also director of the W.E.B. DuBois Institute for African and African-American Research at Harvard. Additionally, Gates served for more than a decade as chair of Harvard’s Department of African and African-American Studies. During his career, Gates has also received 44 honorary degrees.
He is the editor of Transition magazine, the editor-in-chief of the Oxford African American Studies Center at Harvard University and the co-editor of Encarta Africana, an encyclopedia published both in text and on CD-ROM. He has published several books, including African American Lives, America Behind the Color Line: Dialogues with African Americans and The Annotated Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
One of Gates’ most recent projects, which he wrote and produced, was the documentary, African American Lives, which aired in 2006 on the Public Broadcasting Service. The documentary is the first to use science and genealogy to trace African-American ancestry. Gates also wrote and produced two earlier documentaries for PBS and the British Broadcasting Company.
Gates’ work as a public cultural critic includes a Time magazine cover story in 1994, numerous articles published in The New Yorker and a guest column in The New York Times.
“I do not need to explain how accomplished Dr. Gates is — his career speaks for itself,” said Elizabeth Ohito, a College second-year and publicity chair of the Organization of Black Students. “He will bring a unique perspective to our Chicago community on the issues of black politics, education and culture.”
The Kent Lecture is held in honor of George Kent, the former Chicago professor, who taught English Language & Literature from 1970 until his death in 1982. Each year, the Organization of Black Students brings a prominent member of the African-American community to campus to speak on relevant social issues. Past speakers have included Cornel West, Nikki Giovanni, Angela Davis and Gwendolyn Brooks.
The event is free and open to the public, although seating is limited. Early arrival is recommended. Persons with disabilities should contact the Office of the Reynolds Club and Student Activities at (773) 702-8787 for special accommodations.