2023 Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

The fourth annual Tony Horwitz Prize honoring distinguished work in American history of wide appeal and enduring public significance is awarded to Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and the Director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University.

A renowned and award-winning literary scholar, critic, teacher, and documentary filmmaker, Professor Gates is one of the most recognizable figures in our cultural landscape. He first came to public attention with the publication of his book The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of African-American Literary Criticism, which won the American Book Award in 1989. He followed this with many essays and books written for both scholarly and general audiences. He has tried his hand at historical excavation, recovering a number of lost works of African American literature, including one of the first novels written by an African American.  

In addition to publishing many books, Professor Gates has produced numerous acclaimed documentaries dealing with various aspects of American history. Over the course of nine years, his much-celebrated PBS series, Finding Your Roots, has introduced millions around the world to the practice of tracing genealogy through documents and DNA. In 2013, he was the recipient of the Peabody Award and the NAACP Image Award for his documentary The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross. Professor Gates has also worked tirelessly to build and promote institutions, serving as the director of the W.E.B Dubois Research Institute, which is now a part of the Hutchins Center of which he is also the Director.

Professor Gates has been given many honorary degrees on both sides of the Atlantic. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences as well as the British Academy. He was in the first class of MacArthur Fellows and was the first African American to receive the National Humanities Medal. His accomplishments are too numerous to recount in this citation. Professor Gates is more than deserving of this award for all that he has contributed to our nation and the world.