Thursday, March 26, 2009

JOHN HOPE FRANKLIN Dies yet leaves guiding light

John Hope Franklin as a young boy: A Boyscout's Good Deed ends in Ugly Racism


John Hope Franklin, Scholar Who Transformed African American History, Dies at Age 94 - January 22, 1915 - March 25, 2009

From this historian:

“We must go beyond textbooks, go out into the bypaths and untrodden depths of the wilderness and travel and explore and tell the world the glories of our journey.”

““We know all too little about the factors that affect the attitudes of the peoples of the world toward one another. It is clear, however, that color and race are at once the most important and the most enigmatic.””

Perhaps there will be some responses to these two famous JH Franklin quotes or more favorites from this hero in the Comments below?

NPR dot org Special (Listen and Read) : here

Washington Post: Historian Helped Blaze a Civil Rights Path - John Hope Franklin, one of the most prolific and well-respected chroniclers of America's torturous racial odyssey, died of congestive heart failure yesterday at the age of 94 in a Durham, N.C., hospital.

The following obituary commemoration is to be found at the Duke website: here

From Wednesday, March 25, 2009

DURHAM, N.C. - John Hope Franklin, the scholar who
helped create the field of African-American history and
dominated it for nearly six decades, has died at the
age of 94.

Franklin died of congestive heart failure at Duke
Hospital this morning. He is survived by his son, John
Whittington Franklin, daughter-in-law Karen Roberts
Franklin, sister-in-law Bertha W. Gibbs, cousin Grant
Franklin Sr., a host of nieces, nephews, great-nieces
and great-nephews, other family members, many
generations of students and friends. There will be a
celebration of his life and of his late wife Aurelia
Franklin at 11 a.m. June 11 in Duke Chapel in honor of
their 69th wedding anniversary.

"John Hope Franklin lived for nearly a century and
helped define that century," said Duke President
Richard H. Brodhead. "A towering historian, he led the
recognition that African-American history and American
history are one. With his grasp of the past, he spent a
lifetime building a future of inclusiveness, fairness
and equality. Duke has lost a great citizen and a great

Franklin, James B. Duke Professor Emeritus of History,
was a scholar who brought intellectual rigor as well an
engaged passion to his work. He wrote about history -
one of his books is considered a core text on the
African-American experience, more than 60 years after
its publication - and he lived it. Franklin worked on
the Brown v. Board of Education (1954) case, joined
protestors in a 1965 march led by Martin Luther King,
Jr. in Montgomery, Ala. and headed President Clinton's
1997 national advisory board on race.

He is perhaps best known to the public for his work on
President Clinton's 1997 task force on race. But his
reputation as a scholar was made in 1947 with the
publication of his book, "From Slavery to Freedom: A
History of African-Americans," which is still
considered the definitive account of the black
experience in America.

"My challenge was to weave into the fabric of American
history enough of the presence of blacks so that the
story of the United States could be told adequately and
fairly," he said when the 50th anniversary of the book
was celebrated in 1997. "That was terribly important."

In January 2005, he spoke at Duke at the celebration of
his 90th birthday, displaying the fire that motivated
him throughout his long life. While others at the event
talked about the past and reminisced about his
accomplishments, Franklin focused squarely on the
future. He described the event, held the same day as
President George W. Bush's second inauguration, as a
"counter-inaugural," and gave a talk in the form of a
letter to a fictional white man he called "Jonathan

He recounted some of the historical inequalities in the
United States and recalled some of his own experiences
with racism. He said, for example, that the evening
before he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom
from President Bill Clinton, a woman at his club in
Washington, D.C., asked him to get her coat. Around the
same time, a man at a hotel handed Franklin his car
keys and told him to get his car.

"I patiently explained to him that I was a guest in the
hotel, as I presumed he was, and I had no idea where
his automobile was. And, in any case, I was retired,"
Franklin said. Both of these incidents occurred when he
was in his 80s.

"What these experiences will do to me in the long run,
I do not know. My cardiologist says that they are not
good," he said, continuing with the letter.

"I very much doubt, Mr. Doe, that you have had such
experiences. Your race and your consequent position of
power and privilege have doubtless immunized you from
the experiences that a black person confronts daily,
regardless of his age, education, position or station
in life."

At the time From Slavery to Freedom was published,
there were few scholars working in African-American
history and the books that had been published were not
highly regarded by academics. To write it, he first had
to give himself a course in African-American history,
then spend months struggling to complete the research
in segregated libraries and archives - including
Duke's, where he could not use the bathroom.

Franklin accumulated many honors during his long
career, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom,
the nation's highest civilian honor. He shared the John
W. Kluge Award for lifetime achievement in the
humanities and a similar honor from the American
Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American
Philosophical Society, the nation's two oldest learned

But he also was revered as a "moral leader" of the
historical profession for his engagement in the
pressing issues of the day, his unflagging advocacy of
civil rights, and his gracious and courtly demeanor.

Virtually all of the many articles written about "John
Hope," as he was called by friends and colleagues,
include the words "distinguished" or "elegant." His
devotion to his wife, Aurelia, who died in 1999, was
legendary, as was his love of orchids, which he raised
in his Durham home. He even had one named after him:
Phalaenopsis John Hope Franklin.

Franklin recounted the events of his long life in his
autobiography "Mirror to America: The Autobiography of
John Hope Franklin," which was published in 2005. To
read and hear an interview with Franklin about his
book, go to

The grandson of a slave, Franklin's work was informed
by his first-hand experience with injustices of racism
-- not just in Rentiesville, Okla., the small black
community where he was born on Jan. 2, 1915, but
throughout his life.

Named after John Hope, the former president of Atlanta
University, Franklin was the son of Buck Colbert
Franklin, one of the first black lawyers in the
Oklahoma Indian territory, and Mollie Parker Franklin,
a schoolteacher and community leader

The realities of racism hit Franklin at an early age.
He has said he vividly remembers the humiliating
experience of being put off the train with his mother
because she refused to move to a segregated compartment
for a six-mile trip to the next town. He was 6. Later,
although an academic star at Booker T. Washington High
School and valedictorian of his class, the state would
not allow him to study at the state university because
he was black.

So instead of the University of Oklahoma, in 1931
Franklin enrolled at Fisk University, a historically
black college in Nashville, Tenn., intending to study

However, a white history professor, Theodore Currier,
caused him to change his mind and he received his
bachelor's degree in history in 1935. Currier became a
close friend and mentor and when Franklin's money ran
out, Currier loaned the young student $500 to attend
graduate school at Harvard University, where he
received his master's in 1936 and doctorate five years

He began his career as an instructor at Fisk in 1936
and taught at St. Augustine's and North Carolina
College for Negroes (now North Carolina Central
University), both historically black colleges.

In 1945, Alfred A. Knopf approached him about writing a
book on African-American history - originally titled
>From Slavery to Freedom: A History of American Negroes
-- and he spent 13 months writing it.

Then in 1947, he took a post as professor at Howard
University, where, in the early 1950s, he traveled from
Washington to Thurgood Marshall's law office to help
prepare the brief that led to the historic Brown v.
Board of Education decision.

In 1956 he became chairman of the all-white history
department at Brooklyn College. Despite his position,
he had to visit 35 real estate agents before he was
able to buy a house for his young family and no New
York bank would loan him the money.

Later, while at the University of Chicago, he
accompanied the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. on the
march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala. in 1965.

He spent 16 years at the University of Chicago, coming
to Duke in 1982. He retired from the history department
in 1985, then spent seven years as professor of legal
history at the Duke Law School.

Franklin was a prolific writer, with books including
The Emancipation Proclamation, The Militant South, The
Free Negro in North Carolina, George Washington
Williams: A Biography and A Southern Odyssey: Travelers
in the Antebellum North. He also has edited many works,
including a book about his father called My Life and an
Era: The Autobiography of Buck Colbert Franklin, with
his son, John Whittington Franklin. Franklin completed
his autobiography in 2005, which was reviewed favorably
in many media outlets across the country.

He received more than 130 honorary degrees, and served
as president of the Phi Beta Kappa Society, the
American Studies Association, the Southern Historical
Association, the Organization of American Historians
and the American Historical Association.

Franklin's best-known accomplishment in his later years
was in 1997, when he was appointed chairman of the
advisory board for President Clinton's One America: The
President's Initiative on Race. The seven-member panel
was charged with directing a national conversation on
race relations.

When he was named to the post, Franklin remarked, "I am
not sure this is an honor. It may be a burden."

The panel did provoke criticism, both from
conservatives who pressured the panel to hear from
opponents of racial preference and others who said it
did not make enough progress. Franklin himself
acknowledged in an interview with USA Today in 1997
that the group could not solve the nation's racial

But Franklin said the effort was still worth it.

In 2007, lent his formidable effort to the issue of
reparations for African Americans. Franklin returned to
Oklahoma to testify in a hearing urging Congress to
pass legislation that would clear the way for survivors
of the Tulsa Race Riots of 1921, one of the nation's
worst race riots, to sue for reparations.

At Duke, Franklin's legacy has been honored in many
ways. In 2006 he delivered Duke's commencement address.
After celebrating his 90th birthday in January 2005,
Duke held a symposium celebrating the 10th anniversary
of the John Hope Franklin Collection of African &
African American Documentation in the Rare Book,
Manuscript, and Special Collections Library at Duke
University. The event also marked the publication of
his autobiography. A portrait of Franklin was hung in
Perkins Library in 1997.

And, in 2001, Duke opened the John Hope Franklin Center
for Interdisciplinary and International Studies,
( where scholars, artists and members of
the community have the opportunity to engage in public
discourse on a variety of issues, including race,
social equity and globalization. At the heart of its
mission is the Franklin Humanities Institute, which
sponsors public events and hosts the Franklin Seminar,
a residential fellowship program for Duke faculty and
graduate students.

For Franklin, who continued his scholarly work and
public appearances full-bore into his 90s, the work he
began in the 1940s still was not finished.

In a statement to the American Academy of Arts and
Letters in 2002, Franklin summed up his own career:
"More than 60 years ago, I began the task of trying to
write a new kind of Southern History. It would be broad
in its reach, tolerant in its judgments of Southerners,
and comprehensive in its inclusion of everyone who
lived in the region. ... the long, tragic history of
the continuing black-white conflict compelled me to
focus on the struggle that has affected the lives of
the vast majority of people in the United States. ...
Looking back, I can plead guilty of having provided
only a sketch of the work I laid out for myself."

In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that
contributions be made to the Aurelia W. and John Hope
Franklin Endowed Scholarship Fund at Fisk University,
c/o Office of Institutional Advancement, 1000 17th
Street North, Nashville, TN 37208. For more
information on John Hope Franklin, please visit the
Franklin Center web site at here
This hero's famous book was/is featured on NPR dot org today. Evidently there's a way to help out more than just Amazon if you order on their site soon...
Purchase Featured Book:

* From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African Americans
* Author: John Hope Franklin and Alfred Moss, Jr.

1 comment:

Connie L. Nash said...

Please post here or send your favorite quotes from John Hope Franklin! Watch for some to come, readers! Thanks for tuning in!