Saturday, March 28, 2009

John Hope Franklin Dies


John Hope Franklin, one of the most prolific and well-respected chroniclers of America’s torturous racial odyssey, died of congestive heart failure Wednesday in a Durham, N.C., hospital. He was 94.

It was more than Franklin’s voluminous writings that cemented his reputation among academics, politicians and civil rights figures as an inestimable historian. It was the reality that Franklin, a black man, had seen racial horrors up close and thus was able to give his academic work a stinging ballast. Franklin was a young boy when his family lost everything in the Tulsa race riot of 1921. The violence was precipitated by reports that a black youth assaulted a white teenage girl in a downtown elevator. In the end more than 40 people died, mostly blacks, although some reports put the death total much higher.

Franklin was among the first black scholars to earn prominent posts at America’s top — and predominantly white — universities. His research and his personal success helped pave the way both for other blacks and for the field of black studies, which began to blossom on American campuses in the 1960s.


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