Henry Louis Gates Jr. | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Henry Louis Gates Jr. 

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In America Behind the Color Line: Dialogues With African Americans (Warner Books), Harvard African and African-American studies chair Henry Louis Gates Jr. tackles an issue long debated within the black community: how to bridge the gap between its haves and have-nots. The book attempts to answer the question through interviews with 44 Americans across the political and economic spectrum, from celebrities like Colin Powell, Jesse Jackson, Maya Angelou, and Alicia Keys to unknowns like Lura and Chris, a biracial couple in Birmingham, Alabama. Many of Gates's subjects suggest familiar blanket remedies--better education, economic solidarity, positive role models--but others offer specific, practical solutions. New York activist (and former New Alliance Party presidential candidate) Lenora Fulani started a program to teach teens the social skills necessary to land summer internships on Wall Street. Maurice Ashley, the first black chess grand master, coached young Harlem chess players to teach them the value of planning and studying. Franklin D. Raines, chairman of affordable mortgage provider Fannie Mae, argues that the best way for blacks to get a piece of the pie is to buy homes. The book was published to accompany the PBS documentary America Behind the Color Line, which airs in February. Gates will speak at 6 PM on Thursday, January 22, at Afrocentric Bookstore II, 4655 S. King Dr., 773-924-3966, and at 6 PM on Friday, January 23, at the DuSable Museum of African American History, 740 E. 56th Pl., 773-947-0600.

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