Henry Louis Gates was born on September 16, 1950, in Keyser, West Virginia. A respected scholar in African American Studies, Gates graduated from Yale and Cambridge universities. A visit to Africa during the 1970s further developed his interest in African American literature and culture and helped him expand his theories. He is responsible for rediscovering and reviving many writings by black authors, and his goal is to restore the role of black literature in its proper context. He has written numerous historical books including Colored People: A Memoir, A Chronology of African-American History, and The Future of the Race. Gates also has his critics; his appearance at the obscenity trial of the rap group 2 Live Crew was seen as flagrantly self-advancing, and he has been accused of being overly Afrocentric. Nevertheless, his reputation as a scholar is well-deserved. Not only has he taught at Harvard, Yale, Duke, and Cornell, but he has been awarded many honors, including the highly coveted MacArthur Foundation "genius grant."
William L. Andrews William L. Andrews' 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. "To Tell a Free Story" is a history of African American autobiography up to 1865, the research for which got greatly interested Andrews. Since 1988 he has been the general editor of a book series, called "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 climax 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.
Houston Baker is one of the most persistent voices in African American literary criticism, one that has helped to establish a tradition in black literature from slave narratives and spirituals to blues and modern African American writing. He is a frequent contributor to literary journals, author and editor of numerous books, and a leading mover in the diversification of American literature.
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.