- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 5, 2006

John Hope Franklin, 91, and Yu Ying-Shih, 76, two historians specializing in two widely different cultures, received the third John W. Kluge Prize last night at a gathering of academics, philanthropists and human rights activists at the Library of Congress.

The $1 million prize, which is to be divided equally between the two honorees, is given annually to recipients of any nationality, writing in any language, for outstanding accomplishment in the study of humanity — a broad sweep that usually only goes to scholars of advanced age.

Both spoke with vigor in lengthy remarks that followed the presentation of a medal in a formal ceremony conducted by Librarian of Congress James Billington, who hailed the men as “pioneers” and “pathfinders”: Mr. Franklin for his work covering three centuries of U.S. history; Mr. Yu for his far-reaching influence in the field of Chinese intellectual history.

Both are highly regarded, too, for their efforts in promoting the rights of oppressed people. Among other activities, Mr. Johnson marched with Martin Luther King from Selma, Ala., to Montgomery, Ala. Mr. Yu has been an outspoken critic of Chinese Communist policy and supporter of young refugees who left China after the protests at Tiananmen Square.

Mr. Franklin, who lives in Durham, N.C., has written about black life and history; his books include “The Free Negro in North Carolina,” published in 1943, as well as a recent autobiography, “Mirror to America.” He is an emeritus professor of history at Duke University, which has established the John Hope Franklin Center for Interdisciplinary and International Studies in his honor.

He spoke last night of first coming to the Library of Congress in 1939 “with every intention of rewriting the history of the United States in a way that would be palpably inclusive,” by way of understanding “how it is that we [Americans] could fight for independence and, at the very same time, use that newly won independence to enslave many who had joined in the fight for independence.”

Mr. Franklin also took a quick dig at Library of Congress founder Thomas Jefferson for his “negative influence” on American attitudes toward race, noting his views on the inferiority of blacks. Still, he called the Library that Jefferson founded “the eighth wonder of the world.”

Mr. Yu, who lives in Princeton, N.J., is author of more than 30 books spanning more than 2,000 years of history and has taught at Princeton, Harvard, Yale and the University of Michigan. He has served concurrently as president of New Asia College in Hong Kong and vice chancellor of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, although his scholarly career began in the United States, which he calls his adopted country.

“The main justification for my presence here today is that both the Chinese cultural tradition and Chinese intellectual history as a discipline are being honored through me,” he told the audience in his Coolidge Auditorium speech in the Thomas Jefferson Building before a seated dinner upstairs.

John Kluge, who was present at last night’s ceremony, is chairman emeritus of the James Madison Council, the Library’s private sector advisory body.

The award was conceived as a supplement to the Nobel Prize, acknowledging disciplines of study and achievement not recognized by the older award. These include history, philosophy, politics, anthropology, sociology, religion, criticism in the arts and humanities, and linguistics.

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