Connecting a Complex and Changing World

The Fulbright Program was established in 1946 with an ambitious goal — to increase mutual understanding and support friendly and peaceful relations between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. Browse the historical timeline to learn about some of the significant milestones in the Fulbright Program’s history.


The Fulbright Program Is Established

To promote international goodwill and mutual understanding, President Harry S. Truman signed the Fulbright Act into law on August 1, 1946, launching the framework for the Fulbright Program.


John Hope Franklin Begins Fulbright Journey

Franklin, a Presidential Medal of Freedom winner, author, historian, and Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board Chair, went on his first Fulbright to the UK in 1954.


Year of Seven Fulbright Nobel Prize Laureates

Future Fulbrighter Linus Pauling (pictured) won the 1954 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, the same year that six future Nobel Laureates received Fulbright awards: Milton Friedman, Philip Anderson, William Fowler, Niels Jerne, Roy Glauber, and Hannes Alfven.


First Fulbrighter on Record with a Disability

Jeff Davis Duty, Jr. began his Fulbright in the United Kingdom at the London School of Economics. Later in his legal career, he successfully argued to allow guide dogs in the U.S. Supreme Court.


Passage of Fulbright-Hays Act

President John F. Kennedy signed the Fulbright-Hays Act, re-authorizing the Fulbright Program. The Act also enabled foreign governments to contribute funding to Fulbright programming.


Future Nobel Laureate Starts Fulbright

Muhammad Yunus arrived in the U.S. from Bangladesh to study economics. The professor, social entrepreneur, and founder of Grameen Bank won the Nobel Peace Prize (2006) for microlending to reduce poverty.


Fulbrighter Walks on the Moon

Apollo 17 astronaut and 1958 Fulbrighter to Norway Harrison “Jack” Schmitt is the only scientist and the most recent person still living to have walked on the Moon. He was a NASA administrator, professor, and U.S. Senator (NM).


First Humphrey Fellows

President Jimmy Carter created the Humphrey Fellowship Program, which brings professionals from developing countries to the U.S. for non-degree study, internships, and leadership development.


Fulbright 40th Anniversary

Distinguished Lecturer Grants Program created to celebrate Fulbright’s anniversary. Recipients include luminaries such as poet, memoirist, and civil rights activist Maya Angelou, who traveled on her Fulbright to Liberia in 1986.


Fulbright Expands Following Cold War

Fulbright began in Eastern Europe in the 1940s and operated continuously during and after the Cold War. In 1992, new Fulbright agreements were signed with Bulgaria and Romania and in the 1990s, Fulbright Commissions in nations such as Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia commenced or expanded programming significantly.


Rita Dove Named Poet Laureate

Rita Dove, a U.S. Student to Germany in 1974-75, became the youngest and first African American U.S. Poet Laureate in 1993-95. She is also a Pulitzer Prize and National Humanities Medal winner.


Fulbright Association Launches Prize

The Fulbright Association, the U.S. Fulbright alumni group, awarded its first Fulbright Prize for International Understanding to Nelson Mandela for his work fighting apartheid in South Africa.


Fulbright Alumni Serve in Congress

Fulbright alumni have long served in the U.S. Congress. The 110th U.S. Congress convened on January 4, 2007, with four Fulbright alumni serving in the U.S. House of Representatives.


Fulbright-Fogarty Fellowships Established

Many Fulbrighters have engaged in public health projects. With the U.S. National Institutes of Health, Fulbright-Fogarty Fellowships launched to promote clinical research in resource-limited settings.


National Geographic Storytelling Fellowship

Fulbright partners with the National Geographic Society to select and train Fulbrighters to spark broader conversations around globally significant themes.


Classroom Diplomacy

Teacher Exchanges expand program offerings for primary and secondary teachers in the U.S. and 70 countries; nearly 11,000 teacher alumni have brought global perspectives to classrooms around the world.


Fulbright Refreshes Narrative & Brand Identity

The refreshed brand underscores Fulbright is for talented students, scholars, artists, teachers, and professionals from all backgrounds who seek to share knowledge and build diverse and dynamic networks.


Six Fulbright Alumni Lead Their Countries

Colville Norbert Young (Belize), Ashraf Ghani (Afghanistan), Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic (Croatia), David Granger (Guyana), Alexander de Croo (Belgium), and Francisco Sagasti (Peru) lead their nations.


75th Anniversary of the Fulbright Program

Fulbright marked 75 years with a range of activities celebrating the Program’s diversity and its positive impact on global and local communities. To see some of the highlights, read the Anniversary Year in Review and watch the 75th Anniversary Celebration at the Kennedy Center that was hosted by the State Department.

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