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Historians John Hope Franklin, Yu Ying-shih Named Winners of 2006 John W. Kluge Prize for the Study of Humanity

Drs. John Hope Franklin and Yu Ying-shih have been named the recipients of the third John W. Kluge Prize for lifetime achievement in the study of humanity, the Library of Congress announced Wednesday. They will share the $1 million prize.

Franklin and Yu played pioneering roles in bringing previously neglected aspects of American and Chinese history, respectively, into the mainstream scholarship and public consciousness of their countries, say Library of Congress officials.

“Both have done demanding work using a wide variety of primary documents and historical approaches. Each has had an enduring impact on both scholarship and his society, and has opened a path for others to find new materials and methodologies for understanding both their and our cultures,” says the library announcement.

Franklin, the James B. Duke Professor Emeritus of History at Duke University, is the leading scholar in the establishment of African-American history, says Dr. James H. Billington, the Librarian of Congress.

“The transformation he has helped bring about in how we think about American history and society will stand as his lasting intellectual legacy,” Billington says.

One scholar reviewing nominations for the Kluge Prize wrote of Franklin: “He is arguably the most important African-American historian, and the most important historian of the African-American experience, in the history of the academy.”

Franklin told Diverse he was “flattered, pleased, honored and humbled” by the award. Although he has received many prestigious awards in his lifetime, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Kluge was monetarily the highest award, he says.

“I visited the Monet exhibit at the North Carolina Museum of Art,” Franklin says on how he celebrated his new prize. “I continue to celebrate life.”

A Fisk University graduate, Franklin will use part of his award to fund a scholarship he established in 1999 in his wife’s name. A native of Oklahoma, Franklin received his master’s and doctorate in history from Harvard University. Diverse presents awards in Franklin’s name to other pioneering and outstanding scholars

“[The Kluge] is an amazing award for an amazing man,” says Ken West, a spokesman for Fisk. “He’s made history more relevant for me and many of our students by using his textbooks, having dialogue and telling the story of Americans in general. We are thankful to have him and looking forward to working with him in the future.”

The Library of Congress announcement calls Yu, the second winner, “the greatest Chinese intellectual historian of our generation.” Yu, an Emeritus Professor of East Asian Studies and History at Princeton University, is also an outspoken critic of the communist government.

A scholar reviewing Yu’s nomination stated: “The rare distinction of having been elected to full professorships at Harvard, Yale and Princeton undoubtedly confirms the high esteem in which he is held. However, his actual scholarship is a much more important indication of his lifetime achievement, compared to his career successes.”

The Kluge Prize rewards lifetime achievement in the wide range of disciplines not covered by the Nobel prizes, including history, philosophy, politics, anthropology, sociology, religion, criticism in the arts and humanities and linguistics.

Franklin and Yu will officially receive the prize on Dec. 5, 2006, at the Library of Congress, and will return next year to present a scholarly discussion of their body of work at the Library.

—      By Shilpa Banerji

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