10 Questions for Henry Louis Gates Jr.

TIME
By Henry Louis Gates Jr.

“If we all traced our family trees 50,000 years back, we’re all
in Ethiopia. There’s no question about that.”

- Henry Louis Gates Jr.

You recently wrote about the complex feelings Abraham Lincoln held toward black people. Could you expand on that? Bill Bre, BREMEN, GERMANY

A fundamental part of Lincoln’s moral compass was his opposition to slavery. But it took him a long time to embrace black people. We were raised with a fairy-tale representation that because he hated slavery, he loved the slaves. He didn’t. He was a recovering racist. He used to use the N word. He told darky jokes. He resisted abolition as long as he could. But in the end, he was on an upward arc, one that was quite noble.

Can you define the word race? Treva Gholston STONE MOUNTAIN, GA.

People use the words ethnicity and race interchangeably. But race is not a biological concept. It’s socially constructed. We are [influenced by] the environment in which we live, but our physical features are inherited from our biology. If we all traced our family trees 50,000 years back, we’re all in Ethiopia. There’s no question about that. Read more.

3 Responses to “10 Questions for Henry Louis Gates Jr.”


  1. 1 salem Apr 9th, 2009 at 2:05 pm

    I love him so much! Me and my mother watch his African American lives DVD we love it so much. I like the fact he loves Black history! I hate the fact that black history is not very much taught in the high schools that much unless you go to high school in Africa.

  2. 2 getu Apr 19th, 2009 at 9:43 pm

    Hi there.. I was talking to an African American acquaintance about your book and the PBS documentary. All of a sudden this friend of mine told that his ancestors came over here in 1896 from Ethiopia. Not wanting to offend him, I did not say anything to the contrary. Recollecting my history of Ethiopia, 1896 was a very traumatic and a define moment in Ethiopian as well as the African history, when Ethiopia under the leadership of Menelik II and his wife Empress Tsaytu Betule famously defeated the Italian. Though there is always the probability of Ethiopian coming to America at that time, considering the timing, I find it to be just impossible. Is there any way of finding any resources you can point me to? Most of all, I would very much appreciate it, if there is any way of finding any documentation, either any Ethiopia or East African were brought over here by their own accord or as slave?

  3. 3 Steve Clark Mar 15th, 2011 at 2:17 pm

    Often times it takes a racist to find a racist. An apology to the Boston police would go a long way toward bolstering Gates’ credentials. I am not holding my breath.

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