Skip to Content

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Eric Foner

In Conversation

Gates Henry Louis

Friday, January 29, 2021
8:00 pm


Virtual Event

This event will take place online - please see listing for information on how to attend.


Watch Video
Open to the public
Free of charge

Paus­ing for a moment of post inau­gural reflec­tion, fol­low­ing one of our nation’s most con­tentious pres­i­den­tial elec­tions, this con­ver­sa­tion brings together film­maker, scholar, jour­nal­ist and cul­tural critic, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. with promi­nent his­to­rian Eric Foner to con­tem­plate how a divided nation comes together. The two will dis­cuss Recon­struc­tion, the all-too-brief period fol­low­ing the Civil War when the United States made its first effort to become an inter­ra­cial democ­racy. The period saw the Con­sti­tu­tion rewrit­ten to incor­po­rate the ideal of racial equal­ity, but ended as a result of a vio­lent back­lash that erased many of the gains that had been made, with con­se­quences we still con­front as a nation. The pro­gram will also pre­view Gates’ most recent project, The Black Church, which will pre­mière on PBS in February.

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is the Alphonse Fletcher Uni­ver­sity Pro­fes­sor and Direc­tor of the Hutchins Cen­ter for African & African Amer­i­can Research at Har­vard Uni­ver­sity. Pro­fes­sor Gates is an author and film­maker whose work includes Recon­struc­tion: Amer­ica after the Civil War, win­ner of the Alfred I. duPont-Colum­bia Uni­ver­sity Award, and the related books, Dark Sky Ris­ing: Recon­struc­tion and the Dawn of Jim Crow, with Tonya Bolden, and 2019 New York Times Notable Book, Stony the Road: Recon­struc­tion, White Supremacy, and the Rise of Jim Crow. Gates’ ground­break­ing geneal­ogy series, Find­ing Your Roots, is now in its sixth sea­son on PBS and has been called one of the deep­est and wis­est series ever on tele­vi­sion,” lever­ag­ing the inher­ent enter­tain­ment capac­ity of the medium to edu­cate mil­lions of Amer­i­cans about the his­to­ries and cul­tures of our nation and the world.” Gates is the recip­i­ent of an Emmy Award, a Peabody Award, an NAACP image award, an MacArthur Foun­da­tion genius award,” and in 1998 he was the first African Amer­i­can to receive the National Human­i­ties Medal. Gates was named to Time’s 25 Most Influ­en­tial Amer­i­cans list in 1997, to Ebony’s Power 150 list in 2009, and to Ebony’s Power 100 list in 2010 and 2012.

Eric Foner, DeWitt Clin­ton Pro­fes­sor Emer­i­tus of His­tory at Colum­bia Uni­ver­sity, is one of this coun­try’s most promi­nent his­to­ri­ans. Pro­fes­sor Fon­er’s pub­li­ca­tions have con­cen­trated on the inter­sec­tions of intel­lec­tual, polit­i­cal and social his­tory, and the his­tory of Amer­i­can race rela­tions. One of his best-known books includes Recon­struc­tion: Amer­i­ca’s Unfin­ished Rev­o­lu­tion, 1863 – 1877, win­ner of the Ban­croft Prize, Park­man Prize, and the Los Ange­les Times Book Award. His lat­est book is The Sec­ond Found­ing: How the Civil War and Recon­struc­tion Remade the Con­sti­tu­tion . Foner has also been the co-cura­tor, with Olivia Mahoney, of two prize-win­ning exhi­bi­tions on Amer­i­can his­tory: A House Divided: Amer­ica in the Age of Lin­coln, which opened at the Chicago His­tor­i­cal Soci­ety in 1990, and Amer­i­ca’s Recon­struc­tion: Peo­ple and Pol­i­tics After the Civil War, which opened at the Vir­ginia His­tor­i­cal Soci­ety in 1995 and trav­eled to sev­eral other locations.

Lynette Clemet­son is the Direc­tor of Wal­lace House, Knight-Wal­lace Fel­low­ships and the Liv­ingston Awards at the Uni­ver­sity of Michi­gan. A long­time jour­nal­ist, she was a cor­re­spon­dent for Newsweek mag­a­zine in the U.S. and Asia, a national cor­re­spon­dent for The New York Times, and senior direc­tor of strat­egy and new ini­tia­tives at NPR. Wal­lace House works to sus­tain and ele­vate the careers of jour­nal­ists, fos­ter civic engage­ment, and uphold the role of a free press in demo­c­ra­tic society.

This event is part of the Democ­racy & Debate theme semes­ter with sup­port from Wal­lace House and the Ford School of Pub­lic Pol­icy. It is also part of the 2021 U‑M Rev­erend Mar­tin Luther King Junior Symposium.


Back to top