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Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr. to speak at the Cultural Center on Oct. 14

Noted scholar, author, and West Virginia native Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr. will present a lecture, “The Importance of History,” at 6 p.m., Oct. 14, 2005 in the Norman L. Fagan West Virginia State Theater at the Cultural Center, State Capitol Complex, Charleston. The talk is sponsored by the West Virginia Division of Culture and History and the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts in celebration of the centennial of the West Virginia State Archives. A booksigning and reception will follow the speech in the Great Hall. The program is free and open to the public.

Gates is one of the most powerful academic voices in the U.S. In 1997 he was voted one of Time Magazine’s “25 Most Influential Americans.” He is most recognized for his extensive research of African-American history and literature, and for developing and expanding the African American studies program at Harvard University.

Born and raised in Piedmont, Gates grew up during a period of racial transition in the 1950s and 1960s which influenced him greatly and is reflected in his writings. He has held appointments at Yale, Cornell and Duke universities and is now the chair of the Afro-American Studies Department and director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for Afro-Americans Studies at Harvard University.

His works include Colored People: A Memoir, which traces his childhood experiences and makes Piedmont a microcosm of multicultural living; Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Man; Figures in Black: Works, Signs, and the “Racial” Self; and The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of Afro-American Literary Criticism; among others. In 2001, he saw a modest auction catalog listing for an “Unpublished Original Manuscript” which he purchased. After extensive research, Gates found that the handwritten manuscript was the only known novel by a female African-American slave and possibly the first novel written by a black woman anywhere. The Bondwoman’s Narrative by Hannah Crafts and edited by Gates, tells of a self-educated young house slave who knows all too well slavery’s brutal limitations, but never suspects that the freedom of her beautiful new mistress is also at risk and that a devastating secret will force them both to flee the South and make a desperate bid for freedom.

Gates earned his master’s and doctoral degrees in English Literature from Clare College at the University of Cambridge. He has won numerous prizes and awards including the Zora Neale Hurston Society Award for Cultural Scholarship, 1986; Chicago Tribune Heartland Award, 1997; 1997 New England Award for Editorial Excellence; Tikkun National Ethics Award, 1996; the West Virginian of the Year, 1995; the 1995 Humanities Award, West Virginia Humanities Council; and National Humanities Medal, 1998; to name a few.

For more information about the program, call (304) 558-0162. Seating is limited and is available on a first-come, first-seated basis.

The West Virginia State Archives was established in 1905 by the West Virginia Legislature to collect, preserve and present the history of the state and its people–from Native American inhabitation to the present. During its first century, the State Archives has collected tens of thousands of photographic images in numerous formats and this year published the volume Picturing West Virginia: A Century of Collecting by the West Virginia State Archives 1905 - 2005. It is available for purchase for $12.95; mail orders are $15 each.

The West Virginia Division of Culture and History, an agency of the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts, brings together the state’s past, present and future through programs and services in the areas of archives and history, the arts, historic preservation and museums. The Cultural Center is West Virginia’s official showcase for the arts. Visit the Division’s website at www.wvculture.org for more information about programs of the Division. The Division of Culture and History is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.

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Ginny Painter
Director of Public Information
West Virginia Division of Culture and History
The Cultural Center
1900 Kanawha Boulevard, East
Charleston, WV 25305-0300
Phone (304) 558-0220
Fax (304) 558-2779
ginny.painter@wvculture.org