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Program The John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress

John W. Kluge Prize for Achievement in the Study of Humanity

The Kluge Prize recognizes and celebrates work of the highest quality and greatest impact that advances understanding of the human experience.

Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden announced on June 22, 2022 that historian George Chauncey is the recipient of the 2022 John W. Kluge Prize for Achievement in the Study of Humanity.

Chauncey is the first scholar in LGBTQ+ studies to receive the prize. He is known for his pioneering 1994 history “Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940,” his 2004 book “Why Marriage? The History Shaping Today’s Debate over Gay Equality,” and his testimony and other work as an expert witness in more than 30 court cases related to LGBTQ+ rights. These include such landmark U.S. Supreme Court cases as Romer v. Evans (1996), Lawrence v. Texas (2003), and the marriage equality cases United States v. Windsor (2013) and Obergefell v. Hodges (2015).

“Gay New York,” released in 1994 during the 25th anniversary of the LGBTQ+ rights protests at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, looks at the gay community in New York City before World War II. Chauncey utilizes newspapers, police records, oral histories, diaries, and other primary sources to show that there was a much more vibrant and visible gay world than previously believed and to argue that there was a permeable boundary between straight and gay behavior, especially among working-class men. “Gay New York” won numerous prizes for its scholarship including the Frederick Jackson Turner Prize from the Organization of American Historians, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for History, and the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Men’s Studies.

“Why Marriage?” draws on Chauncey’s extensive research prepared for court cases in which he provided expert testimony. It traces the history of both gay and anti-gay activism and discusses the origins of the modern struggle for gay marriage.

Chauncey has edited several books and journal issues, published numerous academic articles, and written for news outlets including The New York Times, The Atlantic, The New Yorker, and The Village Voice.

About George Chauncey

Chauncey received a Bachelor of Arts and a doctorate from Yale University. He was the Samuel Knight Professor of History & American Studies at Yale from 2006 to 2017, and held positions including chair of the History Department, chair of the Committee for LGBT Studies, and director of graduate studies and undergraduate studies for the American Studies program. He was awarded Yale’s teaching prize for his lecture course on U.S. Lesbian and Gay History, which more than 300 students took the final time he taught it. Chauncey taught at the University of Chicago from 1991 through 2006. He is married to Ronald Gregg, a film historian and director of the MA program in Film and Media Studies at Columbia.

Chauncey has been an elected member of the New York Academy of History since 2007 and a member of the Society of American Historians since 2005.

“I am deeply honored to receive the Kluge Prize,” Chauncey said, “and grateful that the Library of Congress has recognized the importance and vibrancy of the field of LGBTQ history.”

“Professor Chauncey’s trailblazing career gave us all better insight into, and understanding of, the LGBTQ+ community and history. His work that helped transform our nation’s attitudes and laws, epitomizes the Kluge Center’s mission to support research at the intersection of the humanities and public policy. He was the perfect choice to receive the 2022 Kluge Prize.”
Carla Hayden, Librarian of Congress

Chauncey “has entirely revised our understanding of LGBTQ history in the United States and in so doing has established it as one of the most vibrant fields of current historical inquiry. Through his testimony in numerous court cases, he has brought the meaning of his work into the public sphere and has contributed in powerful ways to the establishment of marriage equality.”
Drew Gilpin Faust, 2018 Kluge Prize Winner, historian, Harvard University

Chauncey’s “work gave rise to an entire new field…and has expanded into arenas that affect daily life, such as marriage equality.”
Sarah Barringer Gordon, legal historian, University of Pennsylvania

Chauncey is “a path-breaking, field-defining historian of LGBTIA Americans,” and “he is a publicly and politically engaged intellectual whose work in connection with the long course of marriage equality litigation was decisive.”
Martha Jones, historian, Johns Hopkins University

Get to Know George Chauncey

View previous Kluge Prize recipients

About the Prize

Established with an endowment provided by the late John W. Kluge, the Kluge Prize recognizes and celebrates work of the highest quality and greatest impact that advances understanding of the human experience.

Read about the Kluge Prize

Nomination and Selection

The Library of Congress invites nominations for the Kluge Prize from knowledgeable individuals in colleges, universities, government agencies, embassies, and research institutions across the globe, as well as from independent scholars and writers and from library curators. Nominations must be made in writing and explanatory documentation is helpful. Self-nominations are not accepted.

Read more about the Nomination and Selection Process