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Henry Lewis Gates Jr. at ASU Gammage Theater


“Diversity doesn’t mean black and white only.” When Americans hear the term diversity they sometimes associate the term with Affirmative action; however, that is not what Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr. is referring to here.

Henry LouisSkipGates Jr. (born September 16, 1950) is an American literary critic, professor, historian, filmmaker, and public intellectual who serves as the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and Director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University. He is a Trustee of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.[1] He rediscovered the earliest African-American novels, long forgotten, and has published extensively on appreciating African-American literature as part of the Western canon.

In addition to producing and hosting the previous series on the history and genealogy of prominent American figures, since 2012 Gates has been the host of the television series Finding Your Roots on PBS. It combines the work of expert researchers in genealogy, history, and genetics historic research to tell guests about their ancestors’ lives and histories.

I was very excited to get to this show. Been a huge fan of Dr. Lewis and the Finding your roots show. I’ve watched this amazing show for years. I’ve always been intrigued by the history and the DNA results. I’ve learned so much just watching and capturing the essence of the show. I believe history shapes us and knowing your history can help you better understand yourself. No matter the pitfalls or pain your family tree may bare. 

After listening to Dr. Gates speak Finding Your Roots at ASU Gammage in Tempe Arizona on Saturday, April 30, 2022, I can say that I am honored to share the room with such an intelligent storyteller. As a long-time fan of the show watching from season one with guests like Wanda Sykes, Kevin Bacon, and Barbara Walters. The way Dr. Gates presents each story is not only comedic and fact-filled but also filled with surprises.

Saturday night’s audience was awed, tickled, and shocked as we listed to Dr. Gates speak on his journey with Finding Your Roots and his brief role on HBO’s The Watchman. Dr. Gates explained how he was able to get Coca-Cola to sponsor his project by telling them Oprah was already a sponsor. But the most intriguing part of the night was the way he told the story of LL Cool J. 

During the Q&A portion of the conversation, he answered questions such as where to get professional training in genealogy and which Finding Your Roots guest had the most interesting background. 

Check out the video below for an exclusive look inside A Conversation with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. hosted by Arizona PBS and ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. 


Henry Louis Gates Jr.