" Early years
Gates was born in Keyser, West Virginia, to Pauline Augusta Coleman and Henry Louis Gates, Sr. He grew up in neighboring Piedmont, his hometown described in his best-selling memoir Colored People.
At the age of 14, Gates was injured while playing touch football, fracturing the ball and socket joint of his hip, resulting in a slipped epiphysis. The injury was misdiagnosed by a physician who told Gates's mother that his problem was psychosomatic. When the physical damage finally healed, Gates' right leg was two inches shorter than his left. Because of the injury, Gates uses a cane to help him walk.
Gates graduated from Piedmont High School in 1968 and attended Potomac State College in Keyser, West Virginia. He went on to complete his undergraduate B.A. degree at Yale University, summa cum laude, in History. The first African American to be awarded an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellowship, the day after his undergraduate commencement, Gates set sail on the RMS Queen Elizabeth 2 for England and the University of Cambridge. There he studied English literature at Clare College, obtaining the PhD.