CHILMARK, Mass. (AP) — Henry Louis Gates, Jr. said Sunday he has been able to joke about his arrest by a white police officer that led to a national debate on race, but he also has received death threats and bomb threats.
In his first public appearance since meeting with Cambridge police Sgt. James Crowley at the White House, Gates said he and the officer found some humor in the incident and have since discussed going out to eat or taking in a Boston Red Sox or Celtics game.
He said when their two families met in Washington, "Everyone looked like a deer caught in headlights." Crowley seemed very relieved when he shook his hand, he said.
"I said to him, 'I would have sworn you were 6-feet-8 inches tall,'" Gates said. "He said, 'I used to be, but I've lost 2 to 3 feet over the last two weeks.'"
Gates appeared at the Martha's Vineyard Book Festival in support of his 2009 book, "In Search of Our Roots: How 19 Extraordinary African Americans Reclaimed Their Past." The book traces the family trees of black celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey.
But the talk focused instead on the aftermath of last month's disorderly conduct arrest at Gates' home.
The charge was quickly dropped, but Gates' complaint about racial profiling sparked a national debate after President Barack Obama said police "acted stupidly" in arresting Gates.
Gates and Crowley met Thursday at the White House for a beer with the president. Neither man apologized, but they promised to talk again.
Gates said he received numerous threats after the incident, including an e-mail that read, "You should die, you're a racist."
Gates has changed his e-mail address and cell phone number, and Harvard officials even suggested that he consider moving, he said.
Note: Gates is the editor-in-chief of The Root.