William L. Andrews was born in 1946. He earned his B.A. from Davidson College in 1968. He received his M.A. in 1970 and Ph.D. in 1973, respectively, from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, where he is currently the E. Maynard Adams Professor of English. His first book, The Literary Career of Charles W. Chesnutt, published in 1980, deals with a seminal figure in the development of African American and Southern American prose fiction. While researching To Tell a Free Story, a history of African American autobiography up to 1865, Andrews became greatly interested in autobiography studies. Since 1988 he has been the general editor of a book series, titled Wisconsin Studies in Autobiography, which is published by the University of Wisconsin Press. Since the mid-1980's he has done a considerable amount of editing of African American and southern literature and criticism. The fruition of this work has been The Norton Anthology of African American Literature, published in 1997, The Oxford Companion to African American Literature, also published in 1997, and The Literature of the American South: A Norton Anthology, three big collaborative projects that Andrews has co-edited. He went on to be the series editor of North American Slave Narratives, Beginnings to 1920, a complete digitized library of autobiographies and biographies of North American slaves and ex-slaves, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, Ameritech, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Frances Smith Foster is an educator, writer, editor, and scholar. Since 1994, Foster has taught undergraduate and graduate courses in African American literature at Emory University. She is the Charles Howard Candler Professor of English and women's studies where her courses have focused on women's writings and the narratives of slaves, as well as the role of Afro-Protestantism in African American cultural life. Foster is a charter member of the Womanist Studies Consortium, an interracial affiliation of scholars that supports feminist research on women of color. Foster has published Written by Herself: Literary Production by African American Women, 1746-1892 and Minnie's Sacrifice, Sowing and Reaping and Trial and Triumph: Three Rediscovered Novels by Frances Ellen Watkins Harper. She served as editor of The Norton Anthology of African American Literature and The Oxford Companion to African American Literature.
Henry Louis Gates, Jr. was born on September 16, 1950, in Keyser, West Virginia. He received a degree in history from Yale University in 1973 and a Ph.D. from Clare College, which is part of the University of Cambridge in 1979. He is a leading scholar of African-American literature, history, and culture. He began working on the Black Periodical Literature Project, which uncovered lost literary works published in 1800s. He rediscovered what is believed to be the first novel published by an African-American in the United States. He republished the 1859 work by Harriet E. Wilson, entitled Our Nig, in 1983. He has written numerous books including Colored People: A Memoir, A Chronology of African-American History, The Future of the Race, Black Literature and Literary Theory, and The Signifying Monkey: Towards a Theory of Afro-American Literary Criticism. In 1991, he became the head of the African-American studies department at Harvard University. He is now the director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African-American Research at the university. He wrote and produced several documentaries including Wonders of the African World, America Beyond the Color Line, and African American Lives. He has also hosted PBS programs such as Wonders of the African World, Black in Latin America, and Finding Your Roots.