WASHINGTON, December 20, 2001-- Harvard professor and cultural critic Henry Louis Gates, Jr. has been named the 31st Jefferson Lecturer in the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) announced today. The lectureship is the highest honor the federal government bestows for achievement in the humanities. Gates was selected last March by the National Council on the Humanities, NEH's 26-member advisory board.
"Through his outstanding scholarship in African American history and literature, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. has helped shape the field of African American studies," said NEH Chairman Bruce Cole.
At Harvard, Gates is the W.E.B. Du Bois Professor of the Humanities, chair of Afro-American Studies and director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for Afro-American Research.
A prolific scholar, he is coeditor of Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience (1999) and its CD-ROM version, Encarta Africana. He is editor of several anthologies, including the Norton Anthology of African American Literature (1996) and the Oxford-Schomburg Library of Nineteenth Century Black Women Writers (1991). He also edits Transition, the magazine of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute at Harvard University.
Gates's works of literary criticism include Loose Canons: Notes on the Culture Wars (1992) and The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of Afro-American Literary Criticism (1988), winner of the 1989 American Book Award. Among his other books are Figures in Black: Words, Signs and the 'Racial' Self (1987), Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Man (1997) and Wonders of the African World (1999), a companion book to the BBC/PBS television series.
His honors include a 1981 MacArthur Foundation "genius grant," the 1993 George Polk Award for Social Commentary, a 1998 NEH National Humanities Medal and election in 1999 to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
Gates earned his M.A. and Ph.D. in English literature from Clare College at the University of Cambridge. He received a B.A. summa cum laude from Yale University in 1973 in English language and literature. Before joining Harvard's faculty in 1991, he taught at Yale, Cornell and Duke universities.
The selection process for the 2002 Jefferson Lecturer began in fall 2000 with a nationwide request for nominations. The National Council made the final selection last spring, and the invitation to Gates was extended by then-Chairman William Ferris. The lectureship carries a $10,000 honorarium.
Gates will present his lecture on Friday, March 22, 2002, at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, D.C. The lecture is open to the public, and attendance is free. Those interested in attending should call (202) 606-8400 or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org  to request an invitation.
This event is made possible by Sara Lee Corporation, which is sponsoring the Jefferson Lecture through 2003.
Previous Jefferson Lecturers, starting with the most recent, have been Arthur Miller, James M. McPherson, Caroline Walker Bynum, Bernard Bailyn, Stephen Toulmin, Toni Morrison, Vincent Scully, Gwendolyn Brooks, Robert Conquest, Bernard M.W. Knox, Gertrude Himmelfarb, Bernard Lewis, Walker Percy, Robert Nisbet, Forrest McDonald, Leszek Kolakowski, Cleanth Brooks, Sidney Hook, Jaroslav Pelikan, Emily T. Vermeule, Gerald Holton, Barbara Tuchman, Edward Shils, C. Vann Woodward, Saul Bellow, John Hope Franklin, Paul A. Freund, Robert Penn Warren, Erik Erikson and Lionel Trilling.