Historian John Hope Franklin Dies
March 25, 2009 3:12 PM   Subscribe

American historian John Hope Franklin died today at the age of 94. Among his many achievements: authoring From Slavery to Freedom: a History of African Americans. Originally published in 1947, it remains the standard work on African American history. Franklin also did research for the appellants in the historic Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court Case.

Dr. Franklin's other accomplishments include a doctorate from Harvard, chairman of the history departments at Brooklyn College and the University of Chicago, professor of legal history at Duke and most recently the James B. Duke Professor of History Emeritus at Duke.

Even with all his achievements, Franklin battled discrimination all of his life, in 1995 "the night before receiving his [Presidential] Medal of Freedom, after giving a dinner for a few friends at the Cosmos Club (of which he is a member), "a white woman called me out, presented me with her coat check, and ordered me to bring her coat."

Never one afraid to speak his mind on current events, in his 2005 memoir Mirror to America, Franklin lamented "that the 'Negro seat' on the Supreme Court once held by his idol, Thurgood Marshall, has been 'bleached white' by the appointment of Clarence Thomas."

2007 interview with John Hope Franklin.
posted by marxchivist (29 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
posted by jammy at 3:14 PM on March 25, 2009

He is history.
posted by Curry at 3:17 PM on March 25, 2009

posted by box at 3:18 PM on March 25, 2009

Thank you for posting this. I was just reading the news. A great loss for the Durham community, and the whole world.

posted by hydropsyche at 3:19 PM on March 25, 2009

.-. .. .--.
posted by found missing at 3:20 PM on March 25, 2009

We just discussed him in my African American History class and were all jealous that a classmate had actually met him. Not only is he an amazing historian and man, his father was a survivor of the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921.

You will be missed, sir.
posted by teleri025 at 3:29 PM on March 25, 2009

My god, the coat check story caused me to literally flinch. Terrible.

What an amazing and accomplished man. He will be missed, but not forgotten.
posted by JenMarie at 3:34 PM on March 25, 2009

I had the pleasure of meeting and sitting in on an interview with him a few years ago, and at 90 he was sharp as a tack, gracious, eloquent, and generous with his valuable time. As Curry said above, he not only wrote, spoke about, and analyzed history, he lived it - sometimes simultaneously. In our interview he talked about first hearing of the Brown v Board of Education victory, which he had a part in achieving, and even at that moment knowing that it was going to cause a storm of backlash and resentment.
Thanks for this post.
posted by zoinks at 3:34 PM on March 25, 2009

A few more things I found:

Public Radio interview with Dr. Franklin.

A nice timeline of his life and career.

I regret I never got to meet him or at least see him speak. He stole a good friend's seat at a conference in Chapel Hill. My friend let him keep the seat.
posted by marxchivist at 3:42 PM on March 25, 2009

John Hope Franklin wasn't just a great historian. He was a historian who used his access to public forums to affect positive social change without falsifying history in the process. He was an important figure pushing JFK to go beyond his initial lip service for civil rights. He will be sorely missed.

posted by jonp72 at 3:57 PM on March 25, 2009

posted by anansi at 5:28 PM on March 25, 2009

posted by Rangeboy at 5:53 PM on March 25, 2009

posted by brandz at 6:10 PM on March 25, 2009

posted by pointless_incessant_barking at 6:30 PM on March 25, 2009

posted by mediareport at 6:56 PM on March 25, 2009

posted by wheat at 7:06 PM on March 25, 2009


JHF was the real deal.
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:31 PM on March 25, 2009

A hero.

posted by cogneuro at 7:37 PM on March 25, 2009

posted by tarheelcoxn at 7:53 PM on March 25, 2009

Here's a brief interview with Franklin on Obama's presidential nomination, in which he confesses he didn't think such a thing would happen in his lifetime.

posted by Doktor Zed at 7:57 PM on March 25, 2009

posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 8:01 PM on March 25, 2009

...he confesses he didn't think such a thing would happen in his lifetime.

I can't imagine the joy for someone of his generation.
posted by rodgerd at 8:57 PM on March 25, 2009

for the first time ever I can type this and really mean it.

posted by photoslob at 9:04 PM on March 25, 2009

Such a loss. Thank you, Prof. Franklin.

posted by foxy_hedgehog at 9:20 PM on March 25, 2009

Oh dear god. I saw him speak once (my undergrad interest was in the legal status of free blacks in the antebellum South), and he was magnificent (and seemed even then older than God).

posted by orthogonality at 9:43 PM on March 25, 2009

He was the commencement speaker one year at the college where I worked, and I had the wonderful privilege of being his escort for the day. A lovely, gracious man - a calm and warm presence. I cried in the car last night when I heard he had died.

Random JHF trivia: His son was Scott Simon's roommate at the University of Chicago.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 4:04 AM on March 26, 2009

posted by IvoShandor at 6:18 AM on March 26, 2009

posted by domo at 11:46 AM on March 26, 2009

Here's a picture of a few survivors of the Tulsa riots, gathered to watch the documentary "Before they die!"
posted by goofyfoot at 12:41 AM on March 27, 2009

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