Gates to lecture tonight

Ashlee Clark

Students may have read Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s books, and now they’ll have a chance to hear him speak.

Gates will be speaking at 7:30 tonight in Van Meter Hall as a part of the Cultural Enhancement Series.

The Harvard University professor will be lecturing about African civilizations and author W.E.B. Du Bois’ vision of “Encyclopedia Africana.”

Admission to the lecture is free.

“He’s done a lot to push the boundaries of our knowledge about the African-American experience,” said David Lee, dean of Potter College. “He’s an academic superstar.”

Gates was involved in creating Encarta Africana, an interactive CD-ROM encyclopedia in 1998. The project encompassed Du Bois’ idea of creating an encyclopedia about the lives of black people around the world, according to a biography on the Gale Group Web site.

The biography said Gates is also the author of such books as “The Signifying Monkey: Towards a Theory of Afro-American Literacy Criticism” and “Colored People,” a memoir.

Gates has previously been a lecturer at Yale University and a professor at Cornell University and Duke University.

He is currently the W.E.B. Du Bois Professor of the Humanities, chair of the Afro-American studies department and director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for Afro-American Studies.

Folklore professor Johnston Njoku said he is excited that Gates is coming to Western.

“If I have an opportunity to meet him, I will not miss it,” he said.

Njoku said it is important for students to hear the lecture because materials by Gates and people of his caliber are used in classes.

Lee, chair of the Cultural Enhancement Committee, said the goal of the Cultural Enhancement Series is to allow students to interact with exciting and innovative speakers and performers like Gates.

Before speaking, Gates will have dinner with six faculty members and six students who have specialities close to Gates,’ Lee said. A book signing will follow the lectures.

Reach Ashlee Clark at [email protected].