26th Annual Governor's Lecture in the Humanities: October 12, 2021 at 7 p.m. Central

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. to speak on “Finding Your Roots”

Credit: Stephanie Berger.

Historian, filmmaker, popular PBS host, and renowned Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr. will be the featured speaker for the 26th annual Governor’s Lecture in the Humanities on Tuesday, October 12, 2021 at the Holland Performing Arts Center in Omaha beginning at 7 p.m. central. Due to the ongoing pandemic, Professor Gates will appear via live feed virtually on the big screen, which will allow him to answer questions from the audience. The event is presented by Humanities Nebraska (HN), with co-sponsors including Union Pacific and the University of Nebraska.

“We are excited to change up the format this year, to less of a lecture and more of a combination of interview and conversation,” said HN executive director Chris Sommerich. 

“The Q&A portion of this event has always been an audience favorite, and Professor Gates is superb at this kind of interaction,” Sommerich continued. “He will also share some clips from ‘Finding Your Roots’ and discuss how exploring our personal ancestry connects us with our broader history and with each other.”

“Finding Your Roots,” Gates’ groundbreaking genealogy and genetics series, is now in its seventh season on PBS. As an Emmy and Peabody Award-winning filmmaker, Gates has produced and hosted more than twenty documentary films, including the recent “The Black Church” on PBS and “Black Art: In the Absence of Light” for HBO. Professor Gates’ 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.” At Harvard University, he is the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and director of the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research.

Co-chaired by HN board member Beth Whited and former board member Mary Lopez, a benefit reception prior to the free public lecture will raise important funding for HN’s statewide humanities programs. Live-streaming will also be available for the public program with Professor Gates.

*Due to the latest surge in COVID-19 infections, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. will join us virtually. Humanities Nebraska is monitoring the public health situation and will keep in-person and online viewing opportunities updated on the HN website. 

Humanities Nebraska thanks the anonymous presenting sponsor for helping to make this event possible.

Thank you to our 2021 co-sponsors:

Union Pacific Logo
University of Nebraska Logo

Thank you to our 2021 Grand Benefactors:

Thank you to our 2021 Benefactors:


If you would like to join these sponsors, please call 402.474.2131.

Or, send email to Heather Thomas, director of development. 

Humanities Nebraska Presents:

The 26th Annual Governor's Lecture in the Humanities

History of Nebraska's Annual Governor's Lecture in the Humanities

In 1996, Humanities Nebraska collaborated with Governor Ben Nelson to establish the Governor’s Lecture in the Humanities, an annual event to demonstrate the importance of the humanities in public life. His successors, Governors Mike Johanns, Dave Heineman, and Pete Ricketts have continued to enthusiastically support this lecture series, which is free and open to the public. The lecture features a nationally renowned speaker and is preceded by a benefit dinner. Each year the event alternates between Lincoln and Omaha. When held in Lincoln, the Governor’s Lecture is affiliated with the E.N. Thompson Forum on World Issues lecture series at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. In addition to bringing a nationally recognized speaker to Nebraska and building a strong working relationship with Nebraska’s governor, the Governor’s Lecture in the Humanities increases public visibility for Humanities Nebraska and its programs and generates income for statewide humanities programs. Annually, Humanities Nebraska honors individuals, institutions, businesses and communities with the Sower Award in the Humanities for contributions to public understanding of the humanities in Nebraska, based on nominations and letters of support from the citizens of Nebraska. The Sower Award is an original bronze sculpture by Nebraska artist Sondra Dunn Mahoney.