On this edition of In Black America, producer/host John L. Hanson Jr. speaks with the late Dr. John Hope Franklin.
Franklin was born in Rentiesville, Oklahoma, in 1915, only fifty years after slavery had been abolished. His father practiced law, and his mother taught elementary school, and from an early age he learned the power of words and ideas. Following his father’s lead, Franklin spent every evening reading or writing. From his parents he also learned how to survive and thrive in a time when the color line was indelibly drawn.
In the early 1950s, Franklin served on the NAACP Legal Defense Fund team led by Thurgood Marshall, and helped develop the sociological case for Brown v. Board of Education. This case, challenging de jure segregated education in the South, was taken to the United States Supreme Court. It ruled in 1954 that the legal segregation of black and white children in public schools was unconstitutional, leading to integration of schools.
In academia, Franklin found the perfect environment for his insatiable intellectual curiosity and his fervent commitment to justice. Through his published work, he brought needed attention to some of our country’s bleakest chapters. As a distinguished scholar, he used his authority and expertise to foster political and social change. And as a teacher, he inspired his many students and colleagues to delve deeper into the causes and remedies of inequality, bigotry, and oppression.
To satisfy his lively mind, he decided early in his professional career to examine history from a variety of perspectives, to scrutinize new areas or subjects regularly, and to seek collaborative opportunities throughout the international community. This interdisciplinary and international approach contributed to his prodigious output, but, more importantly, it helped redene how historians and scholars seek partnerships with peers in other institutions and countries.
Franklin died at Duke University Medical Center on the morning of March 25, 2009. He was 94.