Emmy Award-Winning Filmmaker, Author Henry Louis Gates Jr. to Present the 2024 Beall-Russell Lecture in the Humanities

Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr. will present April 17 on “Finding Your Roots: Genealogy, Genetics, and African-American History,” based on his award-winning television series 

April 10, 2024
Henry Louis Gates Jr.

Contact: Shelby Cefaratti-Bertin, Baylor University Media & Public Relations, 254-327-8012 
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WACO, Texas (April 10, 2024) – Baylor University and the Waco community will have the opportunity to hear from Emmy Award-winning filmmaker, literary scholar and author Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr. during this year’s Beall-Russell Lecture in the Humanities at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 17, at Waco Hall, 624 Speight Ave. The lecture is free and open to the public, but registration is suggested

Gates is the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and director of the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research at Harvard University. His lecture will focus on “Finding Your Roots: Genealogy, Genetics, and African-American History,” which takes the same name as his groundbreaking genealogy television series now on its seventh season on PBS.

“We are extremely pleased to add Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr. to our list of speakers for the Beall-Russell Lectures,” said lecture co-chair Kimberley Kellison, Ph.D., associate dean of humanities and social sciences in the College of Arts & Sciences and associate professor of history at Baylor. “The Beall-Russell Lecture is Baylor’s premier lecture series in the humanities and has a strong tradition of bringing renowned humanities scholars of national and international stature to Baylor’s campus. Through his scholarship, academic leadership and through the highly successful PBS series ‘Finding Your Roots,’ Dr. Gates emphasizes the importance of the humanities through literature, history, film and other mediums.”

Gates’ six-part PBS documentary series, “The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross,” which he wrote, executive produced and hosted, won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Historical Program -- Long Form in 2014. In addition, the series won the Peabody Award, the Alfred I. du Pont Columbia University Award and the NAACP Image Award.

“In addition to his deep and significant scholarly contributions to African and African American research, Dr. Gates’ books, films and television shows, including ‘Finding Your Roots’ and his most recent PBS documentary ‘Gospel,’ have brought widespread interest in the humanities—the human story—to the wider public,” Kellison said. “Dr. Gates’ scholarship resonates so widely because of his emphasis on the person: he shows us that every individual has a story that fits into a larger and interconnected social, cultural and historical narrative, reminding us again and again that we all have a story worth examining.”

Gates has received 58 honorary degrees and prizes. In 1981, he was a member of the first class awarded “genius grants” by the MacArthur Foundation and became the first African American scholar to be awarded the National Humanities Medal in 1998. He was named in “Time’s 25 Most Influential Americans” list in 1997, Ebony’s “Power 150 List” in 2009 and Ebony’s “Power 100 List” in 2010 and 2012. 

Since his arrival at Harvard University in 1991, Gates has directed the Hutchins Center. He chaired the Department of Afro-American Studies for his first 15 years and has since expanded the Department of African and African American Studies with a doctoral program. Editor of the Oxford African American Studies Center, the first comprehensive scholarly online resource in African American history, Gates is working to develop a “Finding Your Roots” curriculum to teach students science through genetics and genealogy. 

History of the Beall-Russell Lectures 

The Beall-Russell Lectures in the Humanities were established in 1982 with a financial gift from Virginia B. Ball of Muncie, Indiana. The lecture series is named to honor her mother, Mrs. John A. Beall, and Lily Russell, former dean of women at Baylor, both Baylor alumnae of the Class of 1910. The lectures provide a unique opportunity for Baylor students and faculty to meet and hear from renowned scholars in the humanities. 

“The humanities have flourished for centuries through various academic disciplines such as history, literature and language – increasingly, the field of public humanities connects a wider and broader audience with the academic study of the humanities. Dr. Gates’s work spans both aspects of the humanities,” Kellison said. "I hope that the lectures remind students, faculty, staff and members of the Waco community that the study of the humanities can take various shape and form, and that the humanities play a vital part in our lives, connecting us to one another in significant and impactful ways.”

Past lecturers have included Pulitzer Prize-winning author and Presidential Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, artist and designer Maya Lin, poet Maya Angelou, historian David McCollough, writer Amy Tan, journalist and author Isabel Wilkerson, filmmaker Ken Burns and Nobel Prize winner for Literature Czeslaw Milosz. 

For more information, visit the Beall-Russell Lectures in the Humanities website


The College of Arts & Sciences is Baylor University’s largest academic division, consisting of 25 academic departments in the sciences, humanities, fine arts and social sciences, as well as 11 academic centers and institutes. The more than 5,000 courses taught in the College span topics from art and theatre to religion, philosophy, sociology and the natural sciences. The College’s undergraduate Unified Core Curriculum, which routinely receives top grades in national assessments, emphasizes a liberal education characterized by critical thinking, communication, civic engagement and Christian commitment. Arts & Sciences faculty conduct research around the world, and research on the undergraduate and graduate level is prevalent throughout all disciplines. Visit the College of Arts & Sciences website.


Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked Research 1 institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 20,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 100 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.