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Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr  Credit Moar
Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. was awarded the 2022 Lenfest Award

Governor Edward G. Rendell Presented with Inaugural Chairman’s Award 

Harvard University historian and award-winning filmmaker and author Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. was awarded the 2022 Lenfest Spirit of the American Revolution Award at a sold-out evening gala at the Museum of the American Revolution on June 9, 2022. Governor Edward G. Rendell was presented with the inaugural Chairman’s Award.

Gates serves as the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and Director of the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research at Harvard University, and as the host of the groundbreaking PBS genealogy series “Finding Your Roots.”

“This Museum makes my heart sing,” Gates said, in his acceptance remarks. “The story of the founding, this great republic, was truly a multicultural event and that aspect has not been told – it has been hidden – but it is brought to life in this Museum. This is one of the great honors of my career.”

Henry Louis Gates Jr And R Scott Stephenson  Credit Moar
Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Museum President and CEO Dr. R. Scott Stephenson

Prior to receiving the award, Gates engaged in an onstage conversation with Museum President and CEO Dr. R. Scott Stephenson about discovering his own family history and how that has inspired his work. Stephenson announced that Gates will serve as honorary co-chair, along with Harvard University’s Dr. Danielle Allen (author of Our Declaration), on the advisory committee that will support and promote the Museum’s upcoming special exhibition Black Founders: The Forten Family of Philadelphia, opening in February 2023.

New this year, Governor Edward G. Rendell was presented with the inaugural Chairman’s Award by the Museum’s Board Chair Morris W. Offit. The award recognizes extraordinary volunteer leadership in advancing the Museum’s mission and vision.

Since the Museum’s earliest days, Rendell has been a tireless advocate and supporter of the project, playing a leading role in securing its permanent location in Old City Philadelphia and chairing the successful capital campaign that exceeded its $150 million goal by nearly $25 million. A Museum Board Member since 2013, Rendell remains actively committed to advancing the Museum’s influence and impact.

Governor Edward G Rendell  Credit Moar 1
Governor Edward G. Rendell received the inaugural Chairman's Award

The evening event also included a powerful cello performance by Philadelphian Aijee Evans, remarks from Councilmember Derek S. Green, and celebratory toasts from Board Member Karen Dougherty Buchholz and Board Vice Chair Martha McGeary Snider.

The event was co-chaired by Board Member Karen Dougherty Buchholz, Museum Chairman Morris W. Offit, and Board Vice Chair Martha McGeary Snider.

Gold-level sponsors for the event included Morris W. Offit and Martha McGeary Snider. Silver-level sponsors included DLA Piper, The Lenfest Institute for Journalism, Comcast NBCUniversal, Bank of America, Ballard Spahr and The Neubauer Family Foundation, John McFadden & Lisa Kabnick, and The Connelly Foundation.

Proceeds from the event benefit the Museum’s educational mission to uncover and share compelling stories about the diverse people and complex events that sparked the American Revolution.

Cellist Aijee Evans Performed  Credit Moar
Philadelphian cellist Aijee Evans performed at the ceremony

About the Lenfest Award
The Lenfest Award was created and endowed in 2016 by the Museum’s late Founding Chairman H.F. (Gerry) Lenfest to honor individuals who advance public awareness and understanding of history and its relevance in the ongoing American experiment. The Lenfest Award is presented on a semi-regular basis and may be given to an individual or to an organization active in a broad range of fields such as history, education, filmmaking, writing, media, and philanthropy. The Museum previously presented the award to CNN Chief International Anchor Christiane Amanpour and President and CEO of New-York Historical Society Dr. Louise Mirrer, documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, and Pulitzer Prize-winning author David McCullough. The award is accompanied by a $25,000 prize.

About Henry Louis Gates Jr.

Award-winning filmmaker, literary scholar, journalist, cultural critic, and “institution builder” (The New Yorker), Henry Louis Gates Jr. hosts the groundbreaking genealogy and genetics series, “Finding Your Roots,” now in its eighth season on PBS. His most recent books are Stony the Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy, and the Rise of Jim Crow and The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song. His other publications include Who Is Black and Why?: A Hidden Chapter from the Eighteenth-Century Invention of Race, The Trials of Phillis Wheatley: America's First Black Poet and Her Encounters with the Founding Fathers, Colored People, Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Man, In Search of Our Roots, and the American Book Award-winning The Signifying Monkey. 

Gates has created more than 20 documentary films, most recently “The Black Church” on PBS and “Frederick Douglass: In Five Speeches” for HBO. In 2013, Gates's critically acclaimed six-part PBS documentary series, The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross, traced 500 years of African American history to the second inauguration of President Barack Obama. Gates wrote, executive produced, and hosted the series, which earned the 2013 Emmy, duPont, Peabody, and NAACP Image Awards. His 2016 PBS film, Reconstruction: America After the Civil War, was also recognized with a duPont Award. In 2006, Gates was inducted into the Sons of the American Revolution after tracing his lineage to John Redman, a free African American who fought in the Revolutionary War.

A native of Piedmont, West Virginia, Gates earned a bachelor’s degree in history, summa cum laude, from Yale University in 1973, and his master’s degree and doctorate in English literature from Clare College at Cambridge in 1979, where he is also an Honorary Fellow. He is a recipient of a number of honorary degrees, most recently a Doctor of Letters degree from his alma mater, the University of Cambridge. Gates was a member of the first class awarded “genius grants” by the MacArthur Foundation in 1981, and in 1998 he became the first African American scholar to be awarded the National Humanities Medal. 

A former chair of the Pulitzer Prize board, he is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and serves on a wide array of boards, including the New York Public Library, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the Aspen Institute, the Whitney Museum of American Art, Library of America, and The Studio Museum of Harlem. In 2011, his portrait, by Yuqi Wang, was hung in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. He is a member of the Phi Beta Kappa honor society.

About Museum of the American Revolution
The Museum of the American Revolution uncovers and shares compelling stories about the diverse people and complex events that sparked America’s ongoing experiment in liberty, equality, and self-government. Through the Museum’s unmatched collection, immersive galleries, powerful theater experiences, and interactive elements, visitors gain a deeper appreciation for how this nation came to be and feel inspired to consider their role in ensuring that the promise of the American Revolution endures. Located just steps away from Independence Hall, the Museum serves as a portal to the region’s many Revolutionary sites, sparking interest, providing context, and encouraging exploration. The Museum, which opened on April 19, 2017, is a private, non-profit, and non-partisan organization. For more information, visit or call 877.740.1776.