“I think knowing one’s history leads one to act in a more enlightened fashion. I can not imagine how knowing one’s history would not urge one to be an activist.”

Historian John Hope Franklin joined the ancestors this morning. He was 94. John Hope Franklin was a historian, scholar, whose own life story was part of the cadance of the African American experience in the 20th century. He was Professor Emertius of history at Duke University in North Carolina, also home of the John Hope Franklin Center for Interdisciplinary and International Studies, (jhfc.duke.edu) where scholars, artists and members of the community have the opportunity to engage in public discourse on a variety of issues, including race, social equity and globalization; and the Franklin Humanities Institute, which sponsors public events and hosts the Franklin Seminar, a residential fellowship program for Duke faculty and graduate students.

He served as chair on President Clinton’s task force on race in 1997. He received praise and criticism for that initiative.
“I would not go so far to say that this (one-year initiative) can result in a transforming achievement of any sort. But we might be able to do something positive and point toward the direction in which we, as a nation, should go in the future.” (source Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 1997)
President Bill Clinton awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

John Hope Franklin’s books include his landmark From Slavery to Freedom: A History of Negro Americans published in 1947; The Militant South 1800 – 1860 (1956); The Emancipation Proclamation (1963); Race Equality in America (1976); My Life and an Era: The Autobiography of Buck Colbert Franklin, the story of his father co-edited with JHF’s son John Whittington Franklin of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (1997); and Mirror to America: The Autobiography of John Hope Franklin (2005). A complete bibliography is available on the Duke University website dedicated to John Hope Franklin.

John Hope Franklin was born in Rentiesville, Oklahoma, an all-black town. His father was an attorney; his mother a school teacher. He learned the harsh realities of segregation when he and his mother were removed from a train car to the segregated car (often the smoking car) for a 6 mile trip. Despite being valedictorian of his high school class, Franklin could not attend Oklahoma’s state university because of his race. He chose to attend Fisk University; he later earned his masters and doctors from Harvard University.

Franklin helped prepare the brief for Thrugood Marshall’s Brown vs. Board of Education case, accompanied Martin Luther King, Jr. on the march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, and has sought reparations for the last surviving families of the Tulsa Race Riots of 1921 (subject of his book Death in the Promised Land). The city of Tulsa started a campaign in 2001 to raise funds for the John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park – “a symbol of reconciliation and serve as a center for understanding and dialogue about race in America.”

In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that contributions be made to the Aurelia W. and John Hope Franklin Endowed Scholarship Fund at Fisk University, c/o Office of Institutional Advancement, 1000 17th Street North, Nashville, TN 37208.