Historian Clayborne Carson recognized for his scholarship and promotion of Gandhian values

The work of Stanford historian CLAYBORNE CARSON has been recently honored with two awards, one of which took him to the Taj Mahal Palace in India this month.

Carson, who is the director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute, received the International Award for Promoting Gandhian Values Outside India from the Jamnalal Bajaj Foundation and the 2018 John W. Blassingame Award from the Southern Historical Association.

Claybourne Carson
Clay Carson receiving the International Award for Promoting Gandhian Values Outside India by the Jamnalal Bajaj Foundation. (Courtesy of Clay Carson)

The Bajaj foundation is named after a major Indian independence activist who was also one of Mahatma Gandhi’s adopted sons. Its international award honors “individual foreign nationals for propagating Gandhian principles and vision of brotherhood, friendliness, peace, nonviolence, harmony, accordance of human life with nature and moral conscience, outside India,” according to the award’s website.

Previous recipients of the award include former South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Italian activist Danilo Dolci and other distinguished leaders and scholars across the world. The award comes with a prize of 1 million rupees, which is almost $14,000.

“It was an unexpected honor to be awarded the same prize given to so many dedicated people,” Carson said.

Carson, the Martin Luther King, Jr., Centennial Professor at Stanford, has overseen the preservation and examination of King’s papers since 1985, when the late Coretta Scott King asked him to edit and publish a definitive multivolume edition of her late husband’s speeches, sermons, writings and correspondence. Since then, the King Papers Project has produced seven volumes and Carson has edited four additional books on King.

Carson also recently received the 2018 John W. Blassingame Award from the Southern Historical Association for his scholarship and mentorship. The award is named after a pioneering historian of American slavery and former chairman of the African-American Studies program at Yale University. Blassingame is best known for his 1972 book, The Slave Community: Plantation Life in the Antebellum South.

“Carson best exemplifies many of the qualities of John W. Blassingame himself in his roles as the founding editor of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Papers Project (now one part of the Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute, which he also established) at Stanford University, his teaching and mentorship of undergraduate and graduate students, his broad teaching commitments beyond the traditional college classroom and his influential civil rights scholarship,” said the award committee about Carson in a press release.

Being honored with this award brought back many memories for Carson, who knew Blassingame. Carson said he remembers being inspired by his work while he was a PhD student at the University of California–Los Angeles.

“Blassingame was a part of the generation of scholars who paved the way for my generation,” Carson said. “It’s an honor for me to get recognized by an award that carries his name.”