It was a full house at Galloway United Methodist Church, to hear Harvard University Professor Henry Louis Gates, talk about issues affecting the African American Community. Gates, who is known for his PBS program, "Finding Your Roots", heads the African American Studies Department and is Director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research. He answered questioned posed by his friend, the chair of the center, Glenn Hutchins. Gates says some may distance themselves from affirmative action. He benefited and so did women by a larger margin.
"Now I'm talking about white women and women of all kinds. For me to stand at that gate and try to keep out women and other people of color, would make me a hypocrite as big as Clarence Thomas," said Gates.
Hutchins showed clips of an Emmy Award winning documentary produced by Gates called "The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross," as he segued to other questions. In one, Civil Rights Activist Jesse Jackson, talks about the need for economic empowerment following integration.
"Now we find ourselves with the right to move in any neighborhood in America, and we can't pay the note," said Jackson.
Gates explained that during segregation, doctors, lawyers and business leaders served as role models in black communities. But when integration took place, the Black elite left.
"A Black community of haves and a much larger Black community of have nots, so the fabric of the community fell apart," said Gates.
Gates says the Black middle class has quadrupled, but the number living below the poverty line is about the same as it was in 1968, when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed. He believes affirmative action should be economically-based. Gates appearance is part of The Medgar Wiley Evers Lecture Series sponsored by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.