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.
Jennifer Burton (Ph.D. Harvard) is currently a visiting scholar at the University of California, San Diego, where she has taught courses on the debates within African American studies. In addition to teaching at UCSD, she has taught at the University of San Diego and Harvard University. Along with Henry Louis Gates Jr., Burton edited the 31-volume series African-American Women Writers, 1910-1940, and was the volume editor for The Prize Plays and Other One-Acts: Zora Neale Hurston, Eulalie Spence, Marita Bonner, and Others. She also contributed to The Norton Anthology of African American Literature, The Oxford Companion to African American Literature, and Great American Women. Her essays, fiction, and plays have appeared in publications from the Buffalo News to the Southeast Review. She has been a DuBois Fellow, a Mellon Fellow, and a Henry Luce Scholar.