Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Remembering Dr. John Hope Franklin

I just found out that Dr. John Hope Franklin, the dean of historians of African American history, passed away this morning. I talked with John W. Franklin just a couple of weeks ago, and he was down in North Carolina with his father, checking on him.

I am proud to say, as a burgeoning historian of African American history, that I had an opportunity to meet Dr. Franklin. We talked about the importance of preserving Reconstruction era historic sites (I spoke with Eric Foner at that same event, and he agreed with Dr. Franklin's assessment--thanks Miriam for that opportunity). Dr. Franklin was one of the few people with whom I felt nervous while in his presence. I just wanted to make sure that I sounded halfway intelligent; I did alright.

I remember when I decided to go to graduate school for history, and decided that I wanted a book to put me into a right frame of mind. I chose Race and History: Selected Essays 1938-1988 by Dr. Franklin. I still have that book, ink bled upon the pages. I poured through those essays, and I dreamt of having that type of impact on someone reading my own words. Dr. Franklin was indeed an inspiration for me, and countless others.

My thoughts are with John and Karen, as well as Dr. Franklin's family, friends and colleagues at Duke University.

Dr. Franklin on the Election of Barack Obama

Dr. Franklin remembering James Weldon Johnson


Margot Lee Shetterly said...

I believe we genuinely can use the phrase "celebration of life" to describe the correct reaction to the news of the passing of Mr. Franklin. This great man provides a model for us all in terms of how to live a life of intellectual rigor, curiosity, integrity, passion and compassion.

Anonymous said...

Don't know much about him. I only heard of him when he chaired the disastrous Clinton panel on race. I seem to remember that he was pretty intolerant of other views… is that right, Jeffrey?