The 10 Percenter

The 10 Percenter

The New York Times

Robert S. Boyton

Henry Louis Gates Jr. is having lunch at New York’s Union Square Cafe, hoping Danny Meyer’s chicken soup will soothe his allergies. He has just returned from Newark, where he interviewed Mayor Cory Booker for his new PBS series, “Finding Your Roots.” After lunch he’s catching a flight to Martha’s Vineyard for Bill Clinton’s birthday party. Author of 14 books, editor in chief of the online publication The Root, documentary producer and presenter, Gates, 61, is a one-man multimedia industry.

“I have no plans to slow down,” he says cheerfully.

A clear line runs through Gates’s myriad projects. “I want to get into the educational DNA of American culture,” he says. “I want 10 percent of the common culture, more or less, to be black.” Gates’s love of technology has been a boon in this regard. He is always thinking about new ways to circulate his ideas. “The Norton Anthology of African-American Literature” (1996) included a CD of oral literature with recordings of poets like Langston Hughes reading their work. He followed up “Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African American Experience” (1999) with Microsoft’s Encarta Africana on CD-ROM. The success of The Huffington Post inspired him to start The Root, The Washington Post’s online African-American publication. “I’m a tech geek. Whenever I read about something new, I think to myself, How can I take this and make it black?”…

…Gates is a member of the Personal Genome Project at Harvard Medical School, and he and his late father (who died at age 97 on Christmas Eve, 2010) were the first African-Americans to have their entire genomes sequenced. The tests showed that Gates Jr. has 50 percent European ancestry and descends from John Redman, a free African-American who fought in the Revolutionary War. In 2006, Gates was inducted into the Sons of the American Revolution. “When I do a black person’s DNA, there are never any people who are 100 percent black, no matter how dark they are,” he says…

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