The eminent historian John Hope Franklin died yesterday.
I need to take a moment to recognize this important thought leader.
His most popular book, From Slavery to Freedom, has sold over 3 million copies since it was first published in 1947.
He lived his whole life in the United States and died at 94. You can look at his picture and correctly assume he faced his share of racism in his life. He probably had enough anecdotes about the overt discrimination he faced to fill a book, but this one is my “favorite”:
In 1995, Franklin received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Bill Clinton. As part of the festivities, the Cosmos Club held a dinner in his honor. That night, a white woman saw him and assumed he was the coat check guy. She got indignant when he didn’t take her coat. Franklin was the first black member of the club, so I guess we can’t be too mad at her.
He is also a proud initiate of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., was the first black person to chair a history department at a white university, and served as president of the American Historical Association.
He did as much as anyone in America to paint an accurate historical picture of black people in America.
“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.”
Well done, Dr. Franklin, well done.