I was a history major in college so I’m especially saddened when any great historian dies. But John Hope Franklin, who passed away this morning at the age of 94, was far more than just another great historian. The first African-American department chair at a white institution and the first African-American president of the American Historical Association, Franklin, the author of the seminal From Slavery to Freedom: A History of Negro Americans, which has been republished nine times, was an integral part of the team of scholars who assisted Thurgood Marshall to win Brown v. Board of Education, the 1954 case that outlawed the “separate but equal” doctrine in the nation’s public schools.
Born in 1915 in Rentiesville, Oklahoma, Dr. Franklin’s endeavors, his witness, and his powerful chronicle of black America’s hard-won progress toward equal rights and status continue to guide us towards achieving a free and just society. One of the most celebrated historians in the US, he was honored with several important awards–among them the Encyclopedia Britannica Gold Medal for the Dissemination of Knowledge, the NAACP’s Spingarn Medal, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Videos of Franklin talking about his life can be found at the National Visionary Leadership Project.
He talked about Barack Obama’s nomination here.
And discussed the issue of reparations to African-Americans here.
A great way to honor Franklin’s life is to take the time to read his still-timely work.