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Historian John Hope Franklin Dies

Patricia Sullivan

Duke University professor John Hope Franklin, 94, a revered historian of life in the South and the African-American experience, died Wednesday of congestive heart failure at Duke University's hospital in Durham. Here's the 29-inch AP version of his obit.

Author of the seminal "From Slavery to Freedom: A History of Negro Americans," which has been republished more than seven times, Dr. Franklin was part of the team of scholars who assisted Thurgood Marshall to win Brown v. Board of Education, the 1954 case that outlawed the "separate but equal" doctrine in the nation's public schools.

"The tragedy," Franklin told a New York Times Book Review writer in 1990, "is that black scholars so often have their specialties forced on them. My specialty is the history of the South, and that means I teach the history of blacks and whites."

Often honored late in his life, he appeared on the Tavis Smiley show just three years ago. Videos of him talking about his life can be found at the National Visionary Leadership Project.He talked about Barack Obama's nomination here.

By Patricia Sullivan |  March 25, 2009; 3:28 PM ET  | Category:  Patricia Sullivan
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John Hope Franklin was and always will be a revered figure in America, much less in American history, for teaching us all so much and doing it so well while living life as he wanted to live it, not as he had to live it. I am privileged to be in the same profession as John Hope Franklin.

Posted by: greenm1 | March 25, 2009 4:18 PM

What a sad day. Dr. Franklin was more than just a history professor--he WAS and IS AMERICAN HISTORY. I feel honored simply to have studied his work. His scholarly gifts to academia will be long remembered.

Posted by: PepperDr | March 25, 2009 4:36 PM

Dr. Franklin's writings introduced me not only to Reconstruction but also to the skill and beauty of research. What thoughtful works he leaves behind for future generations of historians and Americans.

Posted by: historian1026 | March 25, 2009 4:45 PM

I was privileged to meet Dr. Franklin at the first Festival on the Book held on the Mall. He spoke in the Library of Congress building.

His legacy is the example of flawless scholarship in research and documentation of the African experience in America. It has been said that 'Black History is American History', Dr. Franklin did the research to find the proof, and recorded the facts for everyone to know the truth.

He rests in peace having done the work he was put here to do. He raised the bar. It is now up to his disciples to continue the tradition of quality in historical research of the African experience in the western world.

Saints of God, receive his soul and present him to God, the most high. Amen.

Posted by: postosty | March 25, 2009 4:47 PM

His works should be required reading for all young high school students from grades nine through twelve it would go a long way to healing the racial divide.

Posted by: dargregmag | March 25, 2009 5:00 PM

As a first-year graduate student at Wake Forest University in 1964, I heard Dr. Franklin lecture on the early 20th century civil rights movement. His lecture inspired me to spend the rest of my academic life in researching, writing, and teaching black-white relations in the United States. Dr. Franklin was not only a great and judicious scholar, he was a wonderful, sensitive human being.

Posted by: DWSouthern | March 25, 2009 5:08 PM

I will thank God in my prayers tonight for giving us John Hope Franklin---94 years was not enough, though. In the prayer I will mention how thankful we all are that the great Dr. Franklin lived to see the Obama Presidency. Thank you God.

Posted by: Starfaced1 | March 25, 2009 5:37 PM

Shortly after the publication of Gore Vidal's "Lincoln" novel, Dr. Franklin was participating in the annual Lincoln Symposium in the Old State Capitol House of Representatives in Springfield IL. After many references to Vidal's book were made in the papers presented, Dr. Franklin commented, "After all these years, I was pretty sure we knew about every hour of Lincoln's days in the White House. Now, it seems, we must learn about every hour of every night." Warm laughter filled the hall.

Dr. Franklin was a wonderful historian, a wise professor, and a warm and humorous human being. He will be missed.

Posted by: jrmcq1 | March 25, 2009 5:39 PM

In the video above, Dr. John Hope Franklin addresses the obstacles to
President Obama's success, and then asks whether Mr.Obama has the resources and the capacity to overcome them. He follows that question with this arresting statement: "And I believe he does."

Coming from anyone else, that particular assertion would be little noted. But coming as it does, from this 94 year old professor of our history, a man who lived through and experienced directly so much of what he taught ---coming from this man, the statement that "I believe Barack Obama does" have the resources and the capacity for success---has real meaning for me. Rest in peace, Dr. John Hope Franklin, heavy on the "Hope." Your expression of this belief has made my day. What a loss to this world
you are. Such a loss!

Posted by: martymar123 | March 25, 2009 6:19 PM

A great man, who lesson's and teaching's we will never forget, has left our in peace!

Posted by: rayven-t | March 25, 2009 7:08 PM

In the decade that I taught African-American literature at Howard University my students used over 4,000 copies of John Hope Franklin's book, From Slavery to Freedom. I was invited to share my research work on Mali, West Africa and I reviewed Dr. Franklin's research on Mali. I wrote comments that corrected information based on my years of living in West Africa. I was shocked in April of 2000 to learn that John had given me credit for my small contribution. However, that was the kind of man that he was. He never took credit for another scholar's work. He was a man of great integrity and that is why his work became the basis of all great African-American scholarship. We both studied in Oklahoma and there was a purity to life in Oklahoma that remained with him throughout his life. When I became the first African-American to be appointed Chancellor of an African university I acknowledged that it was his research on Mali that gave me the knowledge to share with millions in Africa. We shall never encounter a man of his character and knowledge again.

Professor Charles Metze II

Posted by: ProfessorMetze | March 26, 2009 2:50 AM

Aloha wau lakou, Na Ke Akua malama pono ia lakou ameka ho'omaika'i ia lakou
(We love you, may god bless and take are of you and thank you for all you have done).
Mari'anette' Kauahikaua
Russell Motter
Honolulu, Hawaii

Posted by: Marianette | March 26, 2009 3:11 AM

Dr Franklin taught a class in the summer of 1964 At University of Maryland College Park. Having owned several of his books it was a delight to have him as a professor. I became ill and had to finish my project on extension and maintained a correspondence with him. I just finished reading his autobiography and he was not only a scholar but a kind and side gentle man. He contributed to the betterment of mankind. Sympathy to his son and family.

Posted by: sjst | March 26, 2009 7:33 AM

Alpha Brother, Professor, Author, Historian, and Great American, Dr. John Hope Franklin, will most certainly be missed. I cannot begin to express how much this man meant to me. Next to my own father, this was the one man that I admired the most. My dear Fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha, has had yet another great American to pass into the Omega Chapter. I am so pleased that Bro. Franklin was able to see Obama become president in his lifetime. His book, "From Slavery to Freedom" is one of most complete history of African Americans. Rest well Dr. Franklin, you most certainly earned it. Job well done.

Posted by: khafre06 | March 26, 2009 9:02 AM

We have lost a National Treasure. Dr. Franklin was an inspiration to so many. He will be sorely misssed.

Posted by: Lefty3 | March 26, 2009 1:38 PM

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