An Hour With Henry Louis Gates Jr.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Harvard University professor and director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research and Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University, Henry Louis Gates Jr., talks about his new six-part series airing on PBS starting tonight, "The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross."


Henry Louis Gates Jr.

Comments [56]

Robin Hair

Henry Louis Gates should consider a documentary on NJ Permanent Alimony Laws, "Modern Day Slavery." Please consider a story on my now deceased husband's MOST EGREGIOUS NJ permanent alimony horror story. Diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, Glioblastoma Multiforme IV, yet forced to litigate.

Nov. 04 2013 01:19 PM
RUCB_Alum from Central New Jersey


"But nothing is as black and white as presented."

This story is based on true events. A forgotten memoir of a man's actual experience. Haven't yet read the book or seen the movie, so I can't say what events were elided/combined/changed for the sake of drama.

@Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

"Affirmative Action makes people think that the people Affirmative Action is designed for are not at their chosen profession based on their ability but based on a lower standard of achievement."

And the people who think that way are placing way too much emphasis on merit. I'd go as far as to say they are mythologizing how hiring decisions are made. Training and hiring are more frequently based on weeding out the 'They would fail' over training and hiring 'the best'. For centuries, certain groups were prevented from even trying. How do we make up for that if not by A-A?

"Should someone who is not a descendent of American Slavery benefit from Affirmative Action?"

Dr. Gates specifically mentioned 'poor white people' as an eligible class for affirmative action. Weren't you listening?

@Sheldon from Brooklyn

"Africans played a much larger role in the slave trade than they care to admit."

Says who? I have never seen any Africans denying slave history. But only in the new world, was chattel slavery turned into a heritable condition. Conquered people were often enslaved - better than being slaughtered outright -but would normally be assimilated into the conqueror's gene pool over time. Think about it - what traces of the 2 million white Europeans that were kidnapped and enslaved by Barbary pirates do you see in the Arab states today? Why not? They were assimilated into the majority culture.

The African conquerors that sold the conquered into New World slavery could have no idea that the divide between victor and slave would still exist 200-400 years later.

@Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

"Slavery is practiced TODAY in Sudan and Mauritania and Saudi Arabia."

You forgot India. Half of the people enslaved today (14,000) are in India.

Oct. 24 2013 02:37 PM
rose ellen from jackson heights

Gates is an ignorant bigot. Check out the documentary he made about Africa where upon hearing native East Africans proclaim to him with pride that their ancestors are Arabs -he out of anger and shock and hatred of Arabs- throws up his hands ,looks up at the sky and says: "Arabs this, Arabs that; they love talking positive about Arabs; next they're going to tell me that the sun comes out of the sky because of Arabs". That his narrow western bigotry against Arabs is not shared by all Africans and his unabashed shameless display of anger at discovering this-shows what an unabashed narrow minded hateful ignorant bigot he really is. For all his degrees ,travels and awards, he has a western/American centric view of history.
And in his latest documentary he says that the Haitian revolution which freed Haitian enslaved Africans got their idea of freedom from the Americans. Like people needed the Americans to tell them they want to be free. That too sounds American centric as there was a revolution going on in France which the Haitians enslaved blacks must have been influenced by as France was a French colony. But Gates left that out of his narrative about Haiti. He's an arrogant American and shares in the prejudices and self serving narratives of Americanism.

Oct. 23 2013 02:11 PM

According to 23 & Me.

Southern European
Northern European
0.3% Ashkenazi
31.2% Nonspecific European

Sub-Saharan African
East Asian & Native American
Native American 0.1%
East Asian 1.1%
Nonspecific East Asian & Native American
0.4% Middle Eastern & North African

0.3% North African
0.1% Nonspecific Middle Eastern & North African
7.9% Unassigned

0.0% South Asian
0.0% Oceanian
7.9% Unassigned


Via that line and subgroups of that line, among the people that
I am genetically linked to is T2b2 Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

Oct. 23 2013 03:45 AM

Went to see 12 years a Slave, at the Union Square theater.
Not too many non black people in the audience.
Seems like the Asians, Latinos, Whites went to see some other movie.

I saw Chiwetel Ejiofor in Dirty Pretty Things
and I like his performance in that picture.
He played a Nigerian doctor, trying to stay in the UK,
finding out about the dark side of the life of an illegal alien
in the UK and doing something about it, taking action, revenge
on some of the players.

But in 12 years a slave, Chiwetel Ejiofor was forever the victim,
one atrocity after the other was inflicted on him and he was helpless
to do anything about it.

After a while, it just felt like 12 years a slave, was one huge
victimhood movie, with beatings, slaps in the face, sexual assaults,
total humiliations of individuals.

The White men were really terribly cruel
and the black people were their innocent victims.

There is a lot of well documented history with respect to the Slave
Trade and their were a lot of atrocities.

But nothing is as black and white as presented.

Black people are good and White people are really soulless devils,
to me it seem that was what the movie was about.

Oct. 23 2013 02:01 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan


If your definition of a "troll" is a loyal listener who doesn't drink the PC Kool-aid, doesn't sing along with Brian's Kumbaya fantasy of the day, and might add "inconvenient truths" to the one-sided polemic posing as discussion here ..... then, yes, I would accept such a moniker.

Gates's words and behavior spoke for themselves, you just didn't want them inconveniently remembered as they clearly reflect the man's world view on race and victimhood.

Oct. 22 2013 05:44 PM
Jan from UWS

How wonderful that I'm headed upstate to tour the Tubman & Seward homes in Auburn, NY, to commemorate the 150th year since Emancipation Proclamation. Perhaps I'll go to "12 Years a Slave" (cheaper than in NYC) one night, although I learned the story watching the movie "Solomon Northup's Odyssey" on TV, ASPIRE channel. The 1984 film was not as bloody as I suspect the current movie is. This conversation was fascinating!

Oct. 22 2013 03:30 PM
time issues

"An Hour with Henry Louis Gates"? Actually 38 minutes including ads at the beginning of the segment. That's shorter than a network TV show in an hour time slot.

Oct. 22 2013 01:33 PM

Re Fuva and Becky. I like to watch movies, but I can't handle the violence. So I simply leave the room for the violent scene and return as soon as it's over. I'm not suggesting the "gory" details should be edited out, but I don't need to watch this stuff to understand how horrible violence is.

I plan to watch 12 Years a Slave at home and leave the room for the gruesome scenes. Man's inhumanity to man is truly disgusting and unfortunately still going on today.

Oct. 22 2013 12:29 PM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

"Affirmative action has its place and is still needed."

Affirmative Action makes people think that the people Affirmative Action is designed for are not at their chosen profession based on their ability but based on a lower standard of achievement.

Should someone who is not a descendent of American Slavery benefit from Affirmative Action?

Oct. 22 2013 12:13 PM
The Truth from Becky

FUVA, agreed, there is always more to learn.

Oct. 22 2013 12:10 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

Probably the biggest tragedy for American Blacks was the loss of connection to their ancestral tribes and national homelands in Africa. They lost their roots. Jews did not because they had their Bible to remind them of where their homeland was, but Africans had no writing and hence had no written connection to the nations they were taken from. So African-Americans lost their roots, their connections back to their homelands. So African-Americans feel little overseas connections, and have ethnically mixed with each other in slavery times, and also with whites. So skin color alone rather than ethnicity became the only lens that African-Americans can experience the world through. That and their connection to slavery. But African immigrants today don't relate to that. They were not slaves know the tribes and nations they emigrated away from.

Oct. 22 2013 12:10 PM
fuva from harlemworld

BECKY, give me a break. So don't watch it with popcorn...But EVERYBODY, including you, needs to watch and LEARN and UNDERSTAND. Because almost none of us do, sufficiently, including you...

Oct. 22 2013 12:05 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

To illfg

Class warfare in the SOviet Union from 1917 to 1931 led to race warfare starting when Adolf Hitler became chancellor in 1933-1945. Class war leads to race war. The killing of "bosses" and "Kulaks" led to the killing of Jews and Slavs and would have been of blacks too if there had been blacks in Europe before WWII.

Oct. 22 2013 12:03 PM

Please can someone list the services for ancestral dna that Professor Gate recommended - I just missed them.
Many thanks,

Oct. 22 2013 12:03 PM
fuva from harlemworld

BECKY, give me a break. So don't watch it with popcorn...But EVERYBODY, including you, needs to watch and LEARN and UNDERSTAND. Because almost none of us do, sufficiently, including you...

Oct. 22 2013 12:03 PM
fuva from harlemworld

Affirmative action has its place and is still needed. But, alone, it is insufficient as reparation, the process of which must begin with EDUCATION and UNDERSTANDING of the gory history, AND the ONGOING REVERBERATIONS.

Oct. 22 2013 12:00 PM
Mr. Bad from NYC

@ mbklyn from Brooklyn

I think it was 40 acres and a mule.

The real "crime against humanity" wasn't slavery (mans inhumanity to man is a historical constant) so much but the failure of Reconstruction. Slavery was a moral and legal problem resolved by the civil war. The political deal that reestablished white supremacy in the confederate states (Compromise of 1877) was far more important to the history and present political situation of black people.

Oct. 22 2013 11:59 AM
The Truth from Becky

FUVA, No, I will not watch with popcorn as entertainment..I know the story, have taught the story, researched several versions of the story, studied the story ad nauseam. You all are welcome to pay for the rehashed version if you desire, I won't spend my money on the story.

Oct. 22 2013 11:59 AM

there is only one war, class warfare. economic. race based discussions are self serving and divisive.

Oct. 22 2013 11:58 AM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

Slavery is practiced TODAY in Sudan and Mauritania and Saudi Arabia.

Oct. 22 2013 11:52 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Virtually all the major civilizations were built on the backs of slaves. Nations went to literally to rob and enslave. It was really the industrial revolution, build on iron and cheap energy (coal) that made slave labor no longer necessary or even profitable. Machines running on relatively cheap energy began to replace the need for slaves, and were more economical in the long run.

In Europe, Christianity turned slaves into feudal serfs instead. They were technically free but still bound to the land and to the Land Lord, but they longer could be treated the same way. The first black slaves in North America were treated according to Biblical law when they became Christians, but that soon faded away as tobacco and cotton required chattel slaves treated as personal property. Some misinterpreted Bible scripture to justify this treatment, while others simply said that Africans were subhumans and hence not covered by laws meant for humans.

So while black slaves were generally not brought to Europe, they were used in the Americas to develop the crops that made the Americas the backbone of White European supremacy in the world for centuries.

Oct. 22 2013 11:49 AM
Martin from Forest Hills

Everyone knows that that Dr. Gates is a powerful intellect, but few may know that he is also enormously generous with that intellect. I ran into him in the Lower East Side 10 years ago, and rather than brush me off with a quick "hello, goodbye" he stood and allowed me to pose questions pertaining to own family's slave history for more than five minutes. Not quite like having him over for dinner, but what a treat.

Oct. 22 2013 11:48 AM
blacksocialist from BKbaby

always great to see the resident knuckledraggers (marty, johnny, jgarbuz) posting their gibberish. "you people" need to go back to your caves.... so sad, so pathetic

Oct. 22 2013 11:48 AM
mbklyn from Brooklyn

I don't agree with Mr. Gates his views. If today a father sells his daughters to a western for a better world, do you need to punish the dad too if his daughters are being used as (sex)slaves?

For the African traders/tribes it was a trade. The crime against humanity was committed in the Western world.

And Holland too, rewarded the plantation owners after the abolishment of slavery. Not the free people.

In America, weren't they promised 4 acres and a mule?

Oct. 22 2013 11:47 AM
John from Fanwood

I retired from the National Archives across Varick Street, and we helped lots of people discover their family history. Black genealogy was so much more difficult because the primary source was the US Census. The slave schedules, and the 19th century Census schedules had little identifying information. Maybe Dr. Gates can talk about alternative resources for this research.

Oct. 22 2013 11:47 AM
Frank from Manhattan

What's Dr Gates's take on "Solomon Northup's Odyssey", Gordon Parks's adaptation of "12 Year's a Slave""

Oct. 22 2013 11:44 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Africans played a much larger role in the slave trade than they care to admit. In fact, many African kings didn't want the slave trade to stop and pushed back against European abolitionists because it was so lucrative.

Oct. 22 2013 11:43 AM
fuva from harlemworld

We require a stand alone series examining the slave trade in the motherland.

Oct. 22 2013 11:42 AM
antonio from baySide

Why did Haiti pay back France all those francs after the Haitian revolution?

Oct. 22 2013 11:41 AM
john from office

The traffic light! and peanut butter! THANK YOU!!!! You forgot RAP music and Hip Hop.

Oct. 22 2013 11:39 AM
fuva from harlemworld

So, Becky, you only watch programming that is entertaining? What about informative programming?...These stories absolutely must be told and must be a part of the collective consciousness. Including the gory details...

Oct. 22 2013 11:39 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

"you people" Ah - John, clearly you've just had your coffee, sweetened with a little Haitian picked Dominican sugar - white of course.

You are hitting top form.

Oct. 22 2013 11:36 AM

"The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters"

"The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters (Spanish: El sueño de la razón produce monstruos) is an etching made by the Spanish painter and printmaker Francisco Goya. Created between 1797 and 1799,[1] it is plate 43 of the 80 etchings making up the suite of satires Los Caprichos.[2] Goya imagines himself asleep amidst his drawing tools, his reason dulled by slumber and bedeviled by creatures that prowl in the dark. The work includes owls that may be symbols of folly and bats symbolising ignorance. The artist's nightmare reflected his view of Spanish society, which he portrayed in the Los Caprichos as demented, corrupt, and ripe for ridicule.[3]

The full epigraph for caprichio No. 43 is: "Fantasy abandoned by reason produces impossible monsters: united with her, she is the mother of the arts and the origin of their marvels."[4] . . .

Oct. 22 2013 11:36 AM
fuva from harlemworld

Thaddeus' comment exemplifies the need for more series like this one: He's been indoctrinated to believe that the story of the enslavement of blacks is inherently negative, instead of triumphant...

Oct. 22 2013 11:35 AM
antonio from baySide

My question is being the professor located in Cambridge, I wanted to know what was JFK's true view on civil rights? I had some friends who said LBJ should get the lions share of the credit for passing the CRB...

Oct. 22 2013 11:35 AM
The Truth from Becky

Exactly caller, I will not watch this series nor 12 years a slave, they are not entertainment to me.. BUT I will continue to watch the PBS Genealogy series.

Oct. 22 2013 11:35 AM

sooo boring. slavery existed all over the world and in some places still does today. you cant move past terrible things like this is you keep reliving it.

Oct. 22 2013 11:34 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

I believe that Professor Gates was surprised to learn from his own investigation for his own PBS series that genetically he was well over 90% European. Pretty much only his skin color is from Africa. Most of his ancestry is from the very people who brought his African ancestor here as a slave.

Oct. 22 2013 11:33 AM
The Truth from Becky

John HAVE A SEAT at the office. Invisible.

Oct. 22 2013 11:31 AM
sara from nyc

Gone With The Wind? Birth of a Nation? Does he seriously believe that these 2 films have really shaped - and done more damage than any others to - our collective knowledge/sense of the history of slavery in the US? Why doesn't anyone talk about "Roots" - the African American "Holocaust" miniseries - in keeping with Mr. Gates' appreciation of such categories?

Oct. 22 2013 11:29 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

"Cop doing his job" If the cop did his job correctly, he would have walked away and left the admittedly belligerent professor to himself.

Oct. 22 2013 11:28 AM

@MC -

You are an ass. I think I'll continue to ignore what you say until you prove you are not a FoxNews sock puppet...

GWTW was far from a complete telling of the slave story in America. It was overall a romance written by a southern woman who was most likely steeped in the righteousness of 'the cause' rather than the fact of the legalized theft of services that is chattel slavery. Margaret Mitchell did go on to (secretly) finance the medical education of dozens of black MDs.

That a free man could be drugged and sold into slavery in our nation is a shocking story to hear. Are there other narratives worth reading? I would be particularly interested in learning about the Confederate response to the Emancipation Proclamation which directed rebel forces to take African American in northern areas as hostages and send them back to the south to be sold into slavery.

We tend not to look at things that make us uncomfortable but sometimes it is very, very necessary. The lingering effects of 200 years worth of theft of services is still with us.

Oct. 22 2013 11:26 AM
Mary Martin from Hoboken

Over the weekend I heard a commentator on WNYC or NPR misidentifying Steve McQueen as an "African American" - he then tried to say he was an AA with English roots from the Caribbean. All this to avoid saying a black man from the UK. It was cringe worthy. It made me laugh but also wonder what do Americans (I am from London) both black and white, think of black people with English accents and English backgrounds.

Oct. 22 2013 11:26 AM
Anonymous from Park Slope

Martin Chuzzlewit
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Martin Chuzzlewit
Chuzzlewitt cover serial.jpg
Cover, first serial edition seventh instalment, July 1843
Author Charles Dickens
Original title The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit
Illustrator Hablot Knight Browne (Phiz)
Country England
Language English
Series Monthly: January 1843 – July 1844
Genre Novel
Social criticism
Publisher Chapman & Hall
Publication date 1844
Media type Print (Serial, Hardback, and Paperback)

The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit (commonly known as Martin Chuzzlewit) is a novel by Charles Dickens, considered the last of his picaresque novels. It was originally serialised in 1843 and 1844. Dickens thought it to be his best work,[1] but it was one of his least popular novels.

Oct. 22 2013 11:26 AM
Angela from Crown Heights

12 years is an amazing story which brought the perversity, humiliation and despair inflicted upon so many to life in a way I've rarely experienced. I've read many slave narratives but reading Northop Solomon's account helped me experience this at a really gut level.
I thought about and cried so often for the characters and now I got to revisit them in McQueen's film. This is a must see film for every American,
McQueen treats all with so much respect, the torturous scenes are not "pornographed" and he does not insult our intelligence with sappy manipulative music or gratuitous narrations.
When I read 12 Years (or whenever I read any Slave accounts) I think how little we are taught about this. Slavery was the main event in the development of this nation and it is our shared history not only the "black" history.

Oct. 22 2013 11:26 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

@ Ron from Manhattan

Yes, I have no idea why GWTW is in the cross hairs of late. It doesn't tell the story of slavery, it tells the (romanticized) story of the southern planter class. To the extent slaves are shown they are rather realistically depicted as being respected and beloved member of the household, which was true.

The movie does not depict the life of the field hands, their awful living accommodations, whipping, sale at market, etc. but that was not something that really goes well with swooning, swelling music, romance, etc. It's an artifact but not an inherently racist film. If GWTW is racist so is every movie of that era.

Oct. 22 2013 11:25 AM

Is Martin Chuzzlewit one of those internet "Trolls?" Simply enjoys provoking and annoying - just for the "fun' of it.

Oct. 22 2013 11:23 AM
The Truth from Becky

Henry Louis "Skip" Gates, Jr., (born September 16, 1950) is an American literary critic, educator, scholar, writer, and editor. He was the first African American to receive the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellowship. He has received numerous honorary degrees and awards for his teaching, research, and development of academic institutions to study black culture. In 2002, Gates was selected to give the Jefferson Lecture, in recognition of his "distinguished intellectual achievement in the humanities."

Oct. 22 2013 11:20 AM

We get it Chuzzle: you don't like black people.

Oct. 22 2013 11:20 AM
The Truth from Becky

Martin, you are full of half truths and hatred. You are an evil jealous racist bigot, who spews hatred towards the Black community, Black men specifically, a minority as well, clearly a discredit to your Jewish race. Not to mention a coward who hides behind a false name.

Here forward you are invisible, a cursed being...your evil doings will be returned on you double...Karma is a bitch. Invisible.

Oct. 22 2013 11:14 AM
Ron from Manhattan

I'm no expert on history, particularly slavery, and nor am I an expert on film, but with all due respect Professor Gates, I don't believe "Gone With The Wind" was a film about slavery! To classify it as such, is irresponsible.

Oct. 22 2013 11:14 AM

What is the difference (in terms of human suffering) between the slave system in the US and the serf system in Northern Europe/Russia? Both systems supposedly ending in the mid 1800's

Oct. 22 2013 11:13 AM
paulb from Prospect Heights

Thanks for the correction about GWTW. It blew my mind when George Clooney used it as an emblem of Hollywood progressivism on the Academy Awards. Never have looked at Clooney the same since.

Great, forgotten novel about slavery: Westward to Laughter by Colin MacInnes.

Oct. 22 2013 11:13 AM
Debra from Bronx

After I learned the Northup book was rescued frm obscurity by a 12 year old white girl, Sue Eakins who found it in a plantation house in 1930 and that she went on to become a historian, I bought the enhanced version and am reading it now. Facscinating.

Oct. 22 2013 11:12 AM
fuva from harlemworld

12 Years a slave was a great film. (Lupita N'yongo, wow!) But it by no means tells the whole story. Hopefully it's the beginning of a process of truth, redress and reconciliation.

Oct. 22 2013 10:53 AM

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