Publication Date

March 26, 2009

Perspectives Section



African American

John Hope Franklin, 1915-2009John Hope Franklin, the eminent historian of African American history, civil rights activist, and teacher died yesterday of congestive heart failure at the Duke University Hospital in Durham, NC. He was 94.

Born in 1915 he grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma and witnessed the tumultuous race riots of 1921 and saw his father’s legal offices burned down. Although barred from admission to the University of Oklahoma, he studied at Fisk as an undergraduate, and Harvard for graduate studies and received his PhD in 1941. He taught at numerous schools including Brooklyn College, University of Chicago, and Duke University.

Over the years he published prolifically. In 1947 the first edition of From Slavery to Freedom came out and he revised and expanded it on a regular basis.  It has sold more than three million copies and been translated into numerous languages. In 2005 at the age of 90 he published Mirror to America: The Autobiography of John Hope Franklin.

Franklin served the profession extensively heading up numerous historical associations including the Southern Historical Association, the Organization of American Historians, and, in 1979, the American Historical Association.

At the same time he also worked as an activist providing research to the NAACP that helped in a number of cases. One of the most significant of these was Brown versus Board of Education which outlawed the practice of school segregation.  In 1995 President Clinton awarded Franklin the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and two years later appointed him as chairman of “One America in the 21st Century: The President’s Initiative on Race.”

Numerous detailed obituaries can be found in newspapers across the country including the Washington Post and New York Times. Find more through Google News. The History News Network is also inviting scholars to post their memories of him.

John Hope Franklin in his own words:
Here is a brief round up of some of Franklin’s work and interviews that are available online:

This post first appeared on AHA Today.

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