Black Harvard scholar arrested on own porch



Update: The Cambridge police just dropped the charges!

Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr., best known for his work in African-American ancestral research, was arrested last week by Cambridge, Mass., police on his own front porch. Gates had just returned from China and found his front door jammed. He went to the backdoor of the home he leases from Harvard University and shut off the alarm—he then opened the front door with the help of his driver.

Lucia Whalen, an employee of the university’s news and alumni periodical, Harvard Magazine, called police after reportedly seeing “two black males with backpacks on the porch,” and one of the men “wedging his shoulder into the door as if he was trying to force entry.” The magazine’s offices are down the street from Gates’ home.

By the time the police arrived at the home, Gates had managed to get the front door open and was inside—on the phone with the property manager. Although Gates produced his Harvard I.D. and driver’s license when questioned by police moments later, Cambridge police arrested him anyway for disorderly conduct. The officer on the scene claimed Gates “exhibited loud and tumultuous behavior” and handcuffed Gates right on his porch. According to Gates’ attorney, fellow Harvard faculty member Charles Ogletree, Gates is suffering from “an infection that has impacted his breathing since he came back from China, so he’s been in a very delicate physical state.” And probably can’t speak loudly…

Gates was released the same day on his own recognizance. His arraignment is set for August 26. Rev. Al Sharpton will attend the arraignment.

Henry Louis Gates, Jr., 58, is the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and the Director of the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University. Only 19 other faculty members have been honored as a “University Professor.”

Professor Gates earned his M.A. and Ph.D. in English literature from Clare College at the University of Cambridge, and his B.A. summa cum laude in History from Yale University in 1973. He joined the faculty of Harvard in 1991, but has also taught at Yale, Cornell, and Duke. In 2006, he wrote and produced the PBS documentary, “African American Lives,” the first work of its kind to use genealogy and genetic science to better understand African-American history and lineage.

Speak your peace.

9 Responses to “Black Harvard scholar arrested on own porch”

  1. 1 4wrdthnkndad

    Gates should not have to explain a thing. To come home after a trip and have to tinker with an alarm is perfectly within reason. For the caller, to be concerned that a break in may be happening is not incomprehensible. But the police inabity to contain the situation or confirm who Gates was is unacceptable. And the fact that he has to deal with mug shots all over the internet is an outrage.

  2. 2 sauer kraut

    Update – Cambridge Police have dropped the disorderly conduct charge. It’s his own fault, really. If he really wants to know what racism is, he ought to take a look at the situation of the Jena 6; what he experienced appears to be an emotional meltdown. It wasn’t racism by the police.

  3. 3 handicapper

    There appears to be a serious flaw in the manner in which the police officers handled this situation. For them to be unable to identify the Professor as the authorized occupant of the dwelling seems to demonstrate poor effort or training on their part. For the police to be unable to avoid escalating this incident to the point of arrest is reprehensible!

  4. 4 firesidefeasts

    gee-willikers. didn’t the caller recognize her own neighbor
    and fellow Harvard employee?! why didn’t the police speak
    to the property manager on the phone? all seems highly
    uncalled for, if you ask me.
    BTW I saw Gates’ PBS show. excellent. we need more sucb
    fact-based historical research and presentations and less
    hear-say and legends. IMO.

  5. 5 tonydye

    Isaiah spoke well of our day: “Our courts oppose the righteous, and justice is nowhere to be found. Truth stumbles in the streets, and honesty has been outlawed. Yes, truth is gone and anyone who renounces evil is attacked.” (Isaiah 59:14-15)

    It is a sad day when a man of this calibre can be treated like a common criminal because of the color of his skin. No white professor would have been arrested like he was. (I am white, by the way.)

    We must begin to view each other as God views us…with love and understanding.

  6. 6 innarae


  7. 7 bobby

    The police arrested him because he was being uncooperative when asked for ID and immediately got angry with police and threw out the race card. I don’t care if you’re black or white if you don’t want to be arrested, cooperate with the police. This same situation occurs a lot to people of all races. Unfortunately if the police are called and given information that 2 black males may be breaking into a house they are going to look for two black males. That doesn’t make a situation racial profiling. If the police had been called to two white males breaking into a home they would have looked for two white males. If the professor had been cooperative when asked for his ID and cooperated with police he would not have been arrested. The charges are being dropped because of all of the race issues hes trying to falsely bring up not because they were without merit.

  8. 8 4wrdthnkndad

    Does being angry qualify as being uncooperative? Could he give them proof that he is whom he claims to be and be angry and annoyed to be in this situaiton in the first place?

    I think the belief that police will respond fairly is where many of us disagree. If you talk to 100 black men of varying income groups, I would guess at least 70% have been stopped or questioned by the police without cause. I wonder if the same could be said of white men across the socio-economic spectrum?

  1. 1 Henry Louis Gates, Jr., arrested « The Lewis Crusade

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