Harvard’s Henry Louis Gates Jr. Makes a Unique Donation to the National Museum of African-American History and Culture

Henry Louis Gates Jr., the Fletcher University Professor and director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African-American Research at Harvard University, has made a unique donation to the Smithsonian’s new National Museum of African-American History and Culture. The museum, scheduled to open on the National Mall in 2015, received the handcuffs used to restrain Dr. Gates when he was arrested last July at his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Professor Gates was arrested on disorderly conduct charges when a Cambridge police officer, investigating the report of a break-in at Gates’ home, saw Professor Gates through the glass panes of the front door of the home. The officer knocked on the door and said he was investigating a possible burglary. He told Professor Gates to step outside and produce identification.

Gates was outraged that he, as a black man, was being hassled by police while in his home. Professor Gates asserted that he was a victim of racial profiling. He was taken away in handcuffs. The charges were dropped the next week. But the incident produced a national debate about racial profiling.

The police officer who arrested Gates later gave the Harvard professor the handcuffs as a souvenir.