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Gates Donates Handcuffs To Smithsonian

Decision is met with mixed reactions

By Nicolas E. Jofre, Contributing Writer

The handcuffs that will remain linked to the controversial arrest of Henry Louis “Skip” Gates, Jr., professor and director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Studies, are now part of the new National Museum of African American History and Culture at the Smithsonian.

Gates told the New York Times Magazine in an interview published Sunday that he met with Sergeant James Crowley, the Cambridge police officer who arrested him this summer, in October at River Gods, Gates’ favorite Cambridge pub. Crowley gave him the handcuffs over a friendly drink.

Gates’ decision to donate the handcuffs to the Smithsonian drew mixed reaction from the Harvard crowd, though much of the hubbub following the July arrest has died down.

“He did the right thing. He’s eager to get [this] beyond him,” said African-American studies professor Glenda R. Carpio, who had recently discussed Gates’ personal decision over dinner with him.

“We need to regard this story in the many layers it already has, including the media’s investment in blowing [it] of proportion,” Carpio added.

But the response from the Harvard community has not been uniformly supportive.

“Perhaps they will exhibit the handcuffs with Sergeant Crowley’s whip,” Yiddish literature professor Ruth R. Wisse said in an e-mail yesterday.

At the time of Gates’ arrest, Wisse penned a sharply worded open letter to Gates in The Crimson, criticizing her colleague’s actions following the arrest.

“You played him for a racist cop and treated him disrespectfully,” Wisse wrote in her July 30 letter.

“Had you truly feared bias, you would surely have behaved in a more controlled, rather than a less controlled, way.”

Worth magazine editor-in-chief and author of “Harvard Rules” Richard Bradley panned Gates’ donation on his blog.

“No one can transform a painful experience into shameless self-promotion better than Skip Gates,” Bradley wrote.

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