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.

Photo of Harry Truman signing legislation

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 U.K. in 1954.

Photo of John Hope Franklin

Year of 7 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 & Hannes Alfven.

Photo of Fulbrighter and Nobel laureate Linus Pauling

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.

Photo of Jeff Davis Duty, Jr. and his guide

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.

Photo of President Kennedy signing the Fulbright-Hays Act into law.

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.

Photo of Muhammad Yunus

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).

Photo of an astronaut on the moon

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 Ghana in 1986.

Photo of Maya Angelou

Fulbright Expands Following Cold War

Fulbright began in Eastern Europe in the 1940s, continued during the Cold War, and after its end, new Fulbright Commissions opened In Hungary (1992), Bulgaria, Romania, Poland, Czech Republic, and Slovakia.

Photo of Budapest, Hungary

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 from 1993-1995. 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.

Photo of the United States Capitol

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.

Photo of four young people standing in the road

National Geographic Storytelling Fellowship

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

Photo of woman looking into a camera

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.

Photo of teach in a science class with secondary students

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.

Fulbright Seal

6 Fulbright Alumni Lead Their Countries

Served or were elected: Colville Norbert Young (Belize), Ashraf Ghani (Afghanistan), Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic (Croatia), David Granger (Guyana), Alexander de Croo (Belgium), Francisco Sagasti (Peru)

Alexander de Croo

75th Anniversary of the Fulbright Program

Over the last 75 years, more than 400,000 alumni have participated in the Fulbright Program, creating meaningful global impact with a focus on action, community, and connections.

Photo of children holding up hand-written pledges