Gates, who is the W.E.B. Du Bois Professor of the Humanities, professor of English, chair of Afro-American Studies and director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for Afro-American Research at Harvard University, has transformed Harvard's Afro-American Studies department into a thriving and respected center. His critical studies of Afro-American oral and literary traditions have had a broad impact on literary theorists and Afro-American Studies scholars.
An influential cultural critic, Gates's publications include "The Black Renaissance," which was a 1994 cover story on black artists for Time magazine. He has also devoted considerable energy to the recovery of black literature. His books include, Figures in Black: Words, Signs & the `Racial' Self, The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of Afro-American Literary Criticism (a 1989 American Book Award winner) and Colored People: A Memoir, a story about growing up in West Virginia in the 1950s and 1960s, released in the spring of 1994.
Gates received his B.A. from Yale University in 1973 and attended Clare College at the University of Cambridge, in England, where he received his master's degree and his Ph.D. in 1979. He has received numerous awards and is a member of various professional associations and committees. His honors and grants include a MacArthur Foundation "genius grant" in 1981--at the age of 30.
"Race and Class in America," is part of the Winton Tolles Lecture Series, which was established in 1991 by members of the Class of 1951 for their 40th Reunion. The series brings distinguished writers to the campus, from the fields of literature, journalism and theatre. The series is in memory of Winton Tolles, Class of 1928 and Dean of the College from 1947-1972.