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John Hope FranklinAppointment: Distinguished Visiting Scholar, 2001

Area of study: African-American History

Affiliation(s): Duke University; University of Chicago; Brooklyn College; Howard University.

Kluge Center project: Memoirs

Residency: April 2001 – July 2001; 2006 (Kluge Prize)

Historian and Civil Rights activist John Hope Franklin was appointed a distinguished visiting scholar at The John W. Kluge Center in 2001 and returned several times over the remainder of his life. A graduate of Fisk University, Franklin received his Ph.D. from Harvard University and held distinguished faculty positions at Howard University, Brooklyn College, University of Chicago and Duke University. His appointment as chair of the Brooklyn College history department was the first such appointment in the nation of an African-American scholar.

Franklin authored 17 books including the groundbreaking “From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African American” (Knopf, 1947), which sold more than three million copies. The seminal text is credited with legitimating African-American studies as a historical discipline. Franklin’s comprehensive and scholarly survey of the African-American experience from the slave trade through the struggle for racial equality transformed understandings of major social phenomena in America, and empowered a wide range of alternate histories of other ethnic and minority groups that are common in today’s times.

Franklin participated actively in the Civil Rights movement in addition to observing it. In 1953 he helped Thurgood Marshall and the Legal Defense Fund successfully reargue Brown v. Board of Education before the U.S. Supreme Court, which struck down the “separate but equal” doctrine and required the desegregation of schools in America. A decade later, Dr. Franklin joined the march on Selma, Alabama led by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

As a scholar at the Kluge Center, Franklin conducted much of the research and writing for his autobiography, “Mirror to America.” Franklin often stated his admiration and appreciation for the Library of Congress, remarking that he had been a frequent researcher at the Library since 1939. Much of the work for “From Slavery to Freedom” occurred at the Library of Congress in 1946, when Franklin researched at the Library six days per week in a study room in the Stack and Reader Division.

In 2006, Franklin, at age 91, John Hope Franklin shared the $1 million Kluge Prize with Chinese historian Yu Ying-shih, award by the Library of Congress in recognition of his lifetime achievement in the study of humanity. Franklin was cited for helping to redirect the social and political course of the United States throughout the 20th century. Franklin received many additional honors throughout his life, including the Jefferson Medal (1984), the Charles Frankel Prize for contributions to the humanities (1993) and the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1995). He received honorary degrees from more than 130 colleges and universities. In 1997 President William Jefferson Clinton appointed him as chair of the President's Initiative on Race.

Franklin passed away on March 25, 2009.

Selected Publications


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Additional Resources

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