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Henry Louis "Skip" Gates' father awoke him this morning at 6:30 a.m. with the news, and since then Gates said he has been in a "daze."
Joining company with Tiger Woods, Madeleine Albright and George Soros, Gates was named one of Time Magazine's 25 most influential Americans, adding to the legend of the already-legendary DuBois professor of the humanities.
"It's a victory for African-American studies," Gates said in an interview yesterday. "For the field in general, but more specifically for what my colleagues and I have been trying to do these past few years. It's a victory for the field and the department."
Gates, who is well-known by academics as a public intellectual, was joined by two other Harvard affiliates: alternative medicine guru Andrew Weil who attended Harvard Medical School, and medical essayist and Lecturer on Social Medicine Marcia Angell.
Gates has authored a torrent of books ranging from academic treatises to collections of personal essays as well as authoring a bi-monthly column for the New Yorker Magazine. This year he also co-edited the first Norton Anthology of African American Literature and The Dictionary of Global Culture.
"Combine the braininess of the legendary black scholar W.E.B. DuBois and the chutzpah of P.T. Barnum, and the result is Henry Louis Gates Jr.," the article said.
Gates is renowned for constructing at Harvard what is considered the best African American studies department in the U.S. during his six years.
A legendary recruiter as well as a producer of legendary recruiting stories, Gates snagged Weiner Professor of Social Policy William Julius Williams while chatting with him in the living room of Vice President Al Gore '69. The recruiting dinner for prominent UCLA sociologist Laurence Bobo included John F. Kennedy Jr.
But more than creating legend, Gates has worked to turn African American studies on the broadest level into a well-respected discipline.
"I think it shows how far we have come in terms of African-American studies legitimacy and how far we've come as a country," Gates said.
Gates said that his appearance on this list does not change his future plans.
"I'm going to keep working as hard as I can to build the DuBois institute," Gates said. "That's my life and I love that."
Gates' current projects include authoring the Encyclopedia Africana, a project first envisioned by DuBois himself. Next year he will work on a series for the BBC on the "Seven Wonders of the African World."
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