Renowned filmmaker to deliver Centre’s Press Distinguished Lecture

Published 1:30 pm Wednesday, April 17, 2024


Centre College proudly announces the selection of distinguished historian, author and filmmaker Henry Louis Gates, Jr. as the 2024 Press Distinguished Lecturer. Based on his groundbreaking PBS series of the same name, Professor Gates will present “Finding Your Roots: A Conversation with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.,” at the Norton Center for the Arts on April 19.

“Many internationally known legends have provided insightful messages from the Norton Center stage, like Eli Weisel, James Earl Jones, Sandra Day O’Connor and Maya Angelou,” said Norton Center Executive Director Steve Hoffman. “We are so fortunate to have Professor Gates accept our invitation to speak to our community when his messages are so relevant and timely.”

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In this presentation, Professor Gates will delve into the themes of genealogy, genetics and history’s impact on our lives today. Drawing from his extensive research and personal experiences, he will offer insights into how our individual and collective histories shape our identities and influence our understanding of the world around us. Following the lecture, the audience will have the opportunity to ask questions to Professor Gates in a Q&A moderated by Kentucky Educational Television’s Renee Shaw.

“We are thrilled to have Henry Louis Gates, Jr. continue the Press Lecture Series tradition, bringing national civic and cultural leaders to Centre,” said College President Milton C. Moreland. “The inspiring speakers and philanthropic contributions behind these events profoundly impact both our campus and community.”

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is among the most prominent and respected figures in African American studies and genealogy. As the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and Director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University, Gates has dedicated his career to exploring and illuminating the complex histories of race, identity and culture in America and beyond.

Among his dozens of books are the recent New York Times bestsellers Story the Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy, and the Rise of Jim Crow and The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song. An accomplished filmmaker and producer, Professor Gates received Emmy nominations for his documentary films Black Church (PBS) and Frederick Douglass: In Five Speeches (HBO). Finding Your Roots, Gates’ groundbreaking genealogy and genetics series, just began its tenth season on PBS.

As the host of Finding Your Roots, Professor Gates helps well-known Americans discover their ancestry and history through traditional genealogical research and DNA testing. Stars like Wanda Skyes, Robert Downey Jr., Jane Lynch, Jordan Peele, Tina Fey and so many more have been featured throughout the series, with Gates guiding them through the lives of their ancestors and discovering surprising stories buried in their family histories.

Professor Gates was recently featured on The Tonight Show, where he discussed his tenth season of Finding Your Roots, his most recent PBS documentary Making Black America: Through the Grapevine as well as his cameo appearance/Finding Your Roots crossover in The Simpsons.

Tickets to Finding Your Roots: A Conversation with Henry Louis Gates Jr., are on sale now. Tickets can be purchased at, by calling 1-877-HIT-SHOW or by stopping by the Norton Center Box Office, Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Endowed by philanthropist Lucille Caudill Little, the Press Distinguished Lecture Series brings notable speakers who have improved our nation’s civic and cultural life to Centre College. The series was named in honor of late Kentucky civic leaders O. Leonard Press, founding director of Kentucky Educational Television, and Lillian Press, founding director of the Kentucky Governor’s Scholars Program.