Henry Louis "Skip" Gates, Jr. (born September 16, 1950 in Keyser, West Virginia) is an American historian, literary scholar, journalist, cultural critic, and institution builder. He is also an Emmy Award-winning filmmaker, and currently serves as the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and Director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University. Gates has authored or co-authored 20 books and created 14 documentary films, including Wonders of the African World, African American Lives, Black in Latin America, and Finding Your Roots, his groundbreaking genealogy series that returns to PBS for a third season in January 2016. His six-part PBS documentary series, The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross (2013), which he wrote, executive produced, and hosted, earned the News and Documentary Emmy Award for Outstanding Historical Program—Long Form, as well as the Peabody Award, Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award, and NAACP Image Award. Having written for such leading publications as The New Yorker, The New York Times, and Time, Gates now serves as chairman of TheRoot.com, a daily online magazine he co-founded in 2008, while overseeing the Oxford African American Studies Center, the first comprehensive scholarly online resource in the field. He has also received grant funding to develop a Finding Your Roots curriculum to teach students science through genetics and genealogy. In 2012, The Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Reader, a collection of his writings edited by Abby Wolf, was published. His next film is the four-hour documentary series, And Still I Rise: Black America since MLK, airing on PBS in April 2016; a companion book, which he co-authored with Kevin M. Burke, was published by Ecco/HarperCollins in 2015.
The recipient of 55 honorary degrees and numerous prizes, Gates was a member of the first class awarded "genius grants" by the MacArthur Foundation in 1981, and in 1998, he became the first African-American scholar to be awarded the National Humanities Medal. He was named to the Time 25 Most Influential Americans list in 1997, to the Ebony Power 150 list in 2009, and to Ebony's Power 100 list in 2010 and 2012. He earned his B.A. summa cum laude in English Language and Literature, from Yale University in 1973, and his M.A. and Ph.D. in English Literature from Clare College at the University of Cambridge in 1979. Gates has directed the W.E.B. Institute for African and African American Research—now the Hutchins Center—since arriving at Harvard University in 1991, and during his first 15 years on campus, he chaired the Department of Afro-American Studies as it expanded into the Department of African and African American Studies with a full-fledged doctoral program. He also is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and serves on a wide array of boards, including the New York Public Library, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the Aspen Institute, Jazz at Lincoln Center, the Whitney Museum of American Art, Library of America, and the Brookings Institution. He has chaired the Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards since 1995, and travels each September to Cleveland, Ohio, to lead a community celebration of the winners. He won the prize himself in 1989 for editing the 30 volumes of "The Schomburg Library of Nineteenth-Century Black Women Writers".