John Hope Franklin, black history pioneer, dies

Raleigh News & ObserverMarch 25, 2009 


Duke University professor John Hope Franklin, shown in this 1998 file photo, a revered historian of life in the South and the African-American experience, died Wednesday, March 25, 2009 of congestive heart failure at the university's hospital in Durham. He was 94.

CHUCK LIDDY — Chuck Liddy / Raleigh News & Observer / MCT

John Hope Franklin, the revered historian who chronicled the South and gave definition to the African-American experience, died this morning at the age of 94.

Franklin, the James B. Duke professor of history emeritus at Duke University, died at Duke Hospital, said David Jarmul, a spokesman for Duke University.

Franklin was considered one of the most influential historians of the 20th century. His book "From Slavery to Freedom," first published in 1947, was a seminal work on African-American history and has sold 3.5 million copies.

His scholarship helped ensure that no American history book could be complete without the story of African-Americans, and that America had to confront the reality of slavery and segregation in its past.

He was at the forefront of some of the biggest turning points in the nation's civil rights history. In 1953, he helped NAACP lawyers with research for the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education school desegregation case. In 1965, he joined a group of historians who marched with Dr. Martin Luther King from Selma to Montgomery. Five decades after his masterpiece was published, he was appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1997 to lead a national intiative on race.

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Franklin's 2006 appearance on "The Tavis Smiley Show" on PBS

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