John Hope Franklin dies

26Mar09

Pioneering African-American historian John Hope Franklin died yesterday morning of congestive heart failure at the age of 94 in Durham, NC, at Duke Hospital. Franklin’s 1947 book, From Slavery to Freedom, is considered a masterpiece in chronicling the Black experience in America.

Born in 1915 in all-black Rentiesville, Okla., Franklin’s father was a lawyer and his mother, a teacher. He graduated from Fisk University where he met his wife, Aurelia Whittington. Married for 58 years, until her death in 1999, she’s credited with editing many of his writings. He later received A.M. and Ph.D. degrees from Harvard University.

Career Highlights:

1943     Published The Free Negro in North Carolina, 1790 – 1860

1947     Published From Slavery to Freedom; hired by Howard University

1954     As a member of Thurgood Marshall’s NAACP Legal Defense Fund team, Franklin prepared research that led to the Supreme Court’s decision to end segregration in schools in Brown v. Board of Education

1956     First Black chair of Brooklyn College’s history department

1964     Hired as history professor at University of Chicago

1965     Marched in Montgomery, Ala., in support of voting rights act, with Dr. King

1967     Named chair of University of Chicago’s history department; served until 1970

1969     Named John Matthews Manly Distinguished Service Professor at University of Chicago through 1982

1983     Named James B. Duke Professor of History at Duke University

1985     Served as legal history professor at Duke University Law School through 1992

1995     Received Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Bill Clinton

1997     Served as chair of President Bill Clinton’s One America Initiative to lead national discussion on race relations

John Hope Franklin also served as President of the American Studies Association (1967), the Southern Historical Association (1970), the United Chapters of Phi Beta Kappa (1973-76), the Organization of American Historians (1975), and the American Historical Association (1979).

The prolific and highly respected historian called President Obama’s election “one of the most historic moments, if not the most historic moment, in the history of this country.”

A life that made the world a better place.

Rest in peace.



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