Dr. John Hope Franklin

(January 2, 1915 – March 25, 2009)

Dr. Franklin was an American historian of the United States and former president of Phi Beta Kappa, the Organization of American Historians, the American Historical Association, and the Southern Historical Association. Franklin is best known for his work From Slavery to Freedom, first published in 1947, and continually updated. More than three million copies have been sold. In 1995, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. Dr. Franklin broke numerous color barriers. He was the first black department chair at a predominantly white institution, Brooklyn College; the first black professor to hold an endowed chair at Duke University; and the first black president of the American Historical Association.

Dr. Franklin was born to attorney, Buck (Charles) Colbert Franklin and his wife Mollie Parker Franklin in Rentiesville, Oklahoma. His father was a Civil Rights Lawyer aka “Amazing Buck Franklin” (1879–1960). He was of African and Choctaw heritage and was born in Pickens County, Oklahoma, then a part of the Chickasaw Nation Indian Territory. He was the 7th of ten children born to David and Milley Franklin.His grandfather David was a former slave and Chickasaw Freedman. His grandmother Milley was born free and was African and one-fourth Choctaw. Dr. Franklin father became a lawyer, and is best known for defending survivors of the TULSA RIOTS IN 1921 which had resulted in the destruction of the Greenwood District, otherwise known at “Black Wall Street”, THE WEALTHIEST BLACK COMMUNITY IN THE UNITED STATES AT THAT TIME.
He attended and graduated from Booker T. Washington High School in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He then attended and graduated from Fisk University in 1935 and gained a doctorate in history in 1941 from Harvard University.
“My challenge,” Franklin said, “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.”

In his autobiography, Franklin described a series of formative incidents where he confronted racism while seeking to volunteer his services at the beginning of WORLD WAR II. He attempted to respond to the Navy’s search for qualified clerical workers, but after he presented his extensive qualifications, the Navy recruiter told him that he was the wrong color for the position. He was similarly unsuccessful in finding a position with a War Department historical project. When he went to have a blood test as required for the drafting that was taking place, the doctor initially refused to allow him into his office. Afterward, Franklin took steps to avoid the draft, on the basis that the country did not respect him or have an interest in his well-being, because of his color.
During WWII, he taught at St. Augustine’s College from 1939 to 1943 and the North Carolina College for Negroes, currently North Carolina Central University from 1943 to 1947.
During that time Dr. Franklin met Aurelia Whittington at Fisk. They married on June 11, 1940 at her parents’ home in Goldsboro, North Carolina. Their only child, John Whittington Franklin, was born August 24, 1952. Aurelia was a librarian. Their marriage lasted 59 years, until January 27, 1999, when she succumbed to a chronic ongoing health issues.
He became an educator teaching at Fisk University. From 1947 to 1956, he taught at Howard University. In the early 1950s, Franklin served on the NAACP Legal Defense Fund which was headed by then Thurgood Marshall, Which help to support the Brown Vs. Board of which led the end of segregation In 1956. At Brooklyn College Dr. Franklin was selected to chair the history department there.He became THE First African American to head a major history department. He held the position there until 1964, when he was recruited by the University of Chicago . He spent 1962 as a visiting professor at the Universityof Cambridge, Holding the professorship of American History and Institutions.

From 1964 through 1968, Dr. Franklin was a professor of history at the University of Chicago and chair of the department from 1967 to 1970. He was named to the endowed position of John Matthew Manly Distinguished Service Professor, which he held from 1969 to 1982. He was appointed to the Fulbright Board of Foreign Scholarships, 1962–69, and was its chair from 1966 to 1969.
In 1973-76, he served as President of the United Chapters of Phi Beta Kappa.
In 1976, the National Endowment for the Humanities selected Franklin for the Jefferson Lecture, THE U.S. FEDERAL GOVERNMENT’S HIGHEST HONOR FOR ACHIEVEMENT IN THE HUMANITIES. His three-part lecture became the basis for his BOOK RACIAL EQUALITY IN AMERICA. Below is the excerpt : Racial Equality in America.
Racial Equality in America is the published lecture series that Dr.Franklin presented in 1976 for the above Jefferson Lecture sponsored by the National Endowment for Humanities. The book divides into three lectures, given in 3 different cities, chronicling the history of race in the United States from revolutionary times to 1976. These lectures explore the differences between some of the beliefs related to race with the reality documented in various historical and government texts as well as data gathered from census, property, and literary sources. The first lecture is titled “The Dream Deferred” and discusses the period from the revolution to 1820. The second lecture is titled “The Old Order Changeth Not” and discusses the rest of the 19th century. The third lecture is titled “Equality Indivisible” and discusses the 20th century
In 1978, he was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame.
Dr. Franklin was appointed to the U.S. Delegation to theUNESCO General Conference, Belgrade in (1980).
In 1983, Franklin was appointed the James B. Duke Proffessor of History at Duke University.. In 1985, he took emeritus status from this position. He was also Professor from 1985 to 1992 incharge of Legal History at Duke University Law School. During this same year he helped to establish the Durham Literacy Center and served on its Board until his death in 2009.
Dr. Franklin received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Bill Clinton in 1995, among his more than 100 honorary degrees and additional accolades. In his later years he was appointed professor emeritus at Duke, with a building dedicated to him, and he continued to write and study.
. In 1991, Dr.Franklin’s students honored him with a FETSCHRIFT The Facts of Reconstruction: Essays in Honor of John Hope Franklin.
Dr.Franklin published and lectured on his new autobiography in 2005 at the age of 90 years old , Mirror to America: The Autobiography of John Hope Franklin. The book received the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights 2011 Book award given annually to a novelist who “most faithfully and forcefully reflects Robert Kennedy’s purposes – his concern for the poor and the powerless, his struggle for honest and even-handed justice, his conviction that a decent society must assure all young people a fair chance, and his faith that a free democracy can act to remedy disparities of power and opportunity.”
In 2006, Dr. Franklin received the John W. Kluge Prize and as the recipient lectured on the successes and failures of race relations in America in Where do We Go from Here?
Dr. Franklin died at Duke University Medical Center on the morning of March 25, 2009 at the age of 94 of congestive heart failure.

(He leaves behind a legacy of having a passion and vision with the best integrity always wins victoriously to be patient and to execute never give up on your dreams and nothing is impossible for we are all equal in every aspect. NS……..)


The center is for African and African American History and Culture resides at Duke University’s David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library and contains his personal and professional papers. The archive is one of three academic units named after Franklin at Duke. The others are the JOHN HOPE FRANCKLIN CENTER FOR INTERDISCIPLINARY AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES
Dr. Franklin was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. He was an early beneficiary of the fraternity’s Foundation Publishers, which provides financial support and fellowship for writers addressing African-American issues.
In 1962
Was honored as an outstanding historian, Franklin became THE FIRST BLACK MEMBER OF THE EXCLUSIVE COSMOS CLUB IN WASHINGTON, D.C.
In 1994
Society of American Historians (founded by Allan Nevins and other historians to encourage literary distinction in the writing of history) awarded Dr. Franklin its Bruce Catton Prize for Lifetime Achievement.
In 1995
Dr. Franklin was awarded the Spingam Medal from the NAACP.
In 1995
Dr. Franklin received the Chicago History Museum “Making History Award” for Distinction in Historical Scholarship.
In 2002
Molefi Kete Asnate included Dr. Franklin on the list of 100 Greatest Afreican Americans.
In 2004
Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry presented the Governor’s Arts Award to Dr. Franklin.
On May 20, 2006
Dr.Franklin was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters at Lafayette College 171st Commencement Exercises.
On November 15, 2006,
Dr. Franklin was announced as the third recipient of the John W. Kluge Prize for lifetime achievement in the study of humanity.


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