November 01, 1999 12:00 PM

>Henry Louis Gates Jr. He got whipped by sand in the Sudan and suffered food poisoning in Timbuktu, but Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr. shrugs off the travails he suffered while trekking through 12 African nations to film the six-part PBS documentary Wonders of the African World (Oct. 25-27 at 9 p.m. ET). “It was a fantasy,” says the chairman of Harvard’s Afro-American Studies department, who hosts the series. “Growing up [in Piedmont, W.Va.], there were almost no black people on TV. When there were, people would call and say, ‘Colored on channel 5!’ ” The networks’ color spectrum still hasn’t widened enough, says Gates, 49, who lives in Cambridge, Mass., with garden-designer wife Sharon Adams, 49, and daughters Maggie, 19, and Liza, 17. “There are 35 million African-Americans,” he says. “You can’t just have Cosby representing all of them.”

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