Prof. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Elected to NYG&B Board of Trustees

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NEW YORK, NY. September 13, 2011.  W. Francis Price, Jr., chairman of the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society, announced today that Prof. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. has been elected to the organization’s Board of Trustees.

Prof. Gates is the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University and director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard. His most recent book, Faces of America (New York University Press, 2010), expands on interviews he conducted for his critically acclaimed PBS documentary series of the same name.

Mr. Price said, “Prof. Gates’ credentials as a professor, scholar, literary critic, filmmaker, and author are extraordinarily extensive.  A mention that he was a MacArthur Fellow barely even scratches the surface. We elected him to the Board, and he accepted the appointment, because of his deep and longstanding interest in genealogy and family history. His contributions to this field are simply staggering.”

Prof. Gates is one of the preeminent leaders in the field of genealogy, including genetics-based research, of which he is a pioneer; biography; and family history.  Prof. Gates is Editor-in-Chief of the Oxford African American Studies Center, a scholarly online resource in African American and Africana Studies. He is also Editor-in-Chief of The Root, an online news magazine that covers African American genealogy, among other subjects, and co-editor of the African American National Biography, an eight-volume work.

Prof. Gates has been developing programming for PBS since 1995. In 2006, he produced his first family history series, “African American Lives,” and the second series aired in 2008.  “Faces of America,” a third series, aired in 2010. That program examined the genealogy of Stephen Colbert, Queen Noor, Meryl Streep, Yo-Yo Ma, and eight others.

He is the author of Finding Oprah’s Roots, Finding Your Own (Crown, 2007), a meditation on genetics, genealogy, and race. He wrote In Search of Our Roots (Crown 2009), the companion book to his PBS documentary series, “African American Lives.”   Faces of America (New York University Press, 2010) is the companion book to the 2010 series.  A fourth series is in production. NYG&B staff assisted with original research of a subject, a celebrity Hollywood couple with impressive family histories.

Prof. Gates is at his most persuasive when he is speaking about the role genealogy can play in  stimulating learning, building self-identity, and understanding the importance of history. In the introduction to his book Faces of America, he said, “… the secret of genealogy is that every family story, no matter how seemingly insignificant, and the name and identity of each of our ancestors, no matter how seemingly unremarkable her or his life, contain an abundance of revelations, both about them and about ourselves.”

He has been actively researching his own family. And, in 2006, he was inducted into the Sons of the American Revolution after tracing his lineage back to John Redman, a free black man who fought in the Revolutionary War.

Prof. Gates is actively involved in other institutions in New York City sharing the NYG&B’s interest in the history of New York families. He sits on the board of the New York Public Library, to which the NYG&B recently gave its research collections, and the New-York Historical Society.

About the NYG&B

The New York Genealogical and Biographical Society has been a primary resource for research on New York families since 1869.  The NYG&B seeks to advance genealogical scholarship and enhance the capabilities of both new and experienced researchers of family history through a rich schedule of programs, workshops, and repository tours; through its quarterly scholarly journal The Record and its quarterly review The New York Researcher; and through an eLibrary of unique digital material on its website

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