Gates Will Step Up as Pulitzer Board Chair

Af-Am professor will lead meetings to select Pulitzer honorees

Du Bois Professor of the Humanities Henry Louis “Skip” Gates Jr. has been elected chair of the Pulitzer Prize Board, the organization announced in a press release yesterday.

Gates—who has been a member of the board since 1997—said yesterday that he was “deeply honored” to be able to serve as chair of the board that grants some of the most prestigious awards in the country to writers, poets, composers, photographers, and journalists each year.

“It’s a great privilege and a great responsibility,” said Gates, who was elected at the board’s spring meeting earlier this month.

He attributed his election to his seniority on the board. At the end of his one-year stint as chair, Gates will have served on the board for the term limit of nine years.

As chair, Gates will be more active in choosing the juries that select the finalists for the 21 Pulitzer Prizes. He will also lead the biannual meetings of the 18-member board that selects which finalist in each category will receive the award.

Although Gates has never won a Pulitzer himself, he is a prolific writer. He has authored a dozen books, including “The Signifying Monkey: Towards A Theory of Afro-American Literary Criticism,” for which he received the American Book Award in 1989.

The Pulitzer Prize Board called him “one of the leading cultural critics in the United States” in its press release.

While his career has been focused on academia, Gates said he is enthusiastic about journalism as well. Two-thirds of the 21 Pulitzer Prizes are awarded for journalism.

After receiving his B.A. from Yale University in 1973, Gates worked as a correspondent in the London bureau of Time magazine before he began his graduate studies at the University of Cambridge.

“I love journalism as much as I love academic writing,” he said.

Gates is currently chair of the Department of African and African American Studies, a position he will relinquish at the end of the 2005-06 academic year.

He is also director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute at Harvard, which awards fellowships to promote scholarship in the field of African and African American studies.

—Staff writer Evan H. Jacobs can be reached at ehjacobs@fas.harvard.edu.