John Hope Franklin

John Hope Franklin (1915-2009) was James B. Duke Professor of History Emeritus and for seven years was Professor of Legal History at Duke University’s Law School. He was a native of Oklahoma and a graduate of Fisk University, receiving his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in history from Harvard University in 1936 and 1941 respectively. Professor Franklin taught at several institutions including Fisk, North Carolina Central, and Howard Universities as well as at St. Augustine’s College in North Carolina. From 1956 to 1964, he served as Chairman of the History Department at Brooklyn College. In 1964, he joined the faculty at the University of Chicago and in 1969, while serving as Chairman of the History Department between 1967 and 1970, was named John Matthews Manly Distinguished Service Professor. In 1982, he became Professor Emeritus.

John Hope Franklin was perhaps best known for his study From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African-Americans (1947).  The ninth edition of the book, co-authored with Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, was published in 2009. He was also the author of many other works including The Free Negro in North Carolina (dissertation, 1943); The Militant South, 1800-1861 (1956); Reconstruction After the Civil War (1961); Land of the Free (with John Caughey and William May) (1965); The Emancipation Proclamation (1965); An Illustrated History of Black Americans (1970); A Southern Odyssey: Travelers in the Antebellum North (1976); Racial Equality in America (1976); George Washington Williams: A Biography (1985); Race and History: Selected Essays, 1938-1988 (1990); The Color Line: Legacy for the 21st Century (1993); Xanadu (1999); For Better, For Worse (1999); and Runaway Slaves: Rebels on the Plantation (1999 - co-authored with former student Loren Schweninger), and the recent Mirror to America: The Autobiography of John Hope Franklin.

John Hope Franklin also edited or co-edited numerous books in African-American history, published one hundred and sixteen essays and numerous reviews, and authored over seventy-five unpublished pieces. He served on a variety of commissions and boards, and was the receipient of numerous awards. Most notably, he was Chairman of the Advisory Board to the President’s Initiative on Race (1997-99) and the National Parks System Advisory Board (1999-2000). In 2002, he received the Gold Medal in History, the highest award given by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 2006, he was awarded the John W. Kluge Prize for Lifetime Achievement in the Study of Humanity by the United States Library of Congress.

In 1997, Franklin was historical consultant on Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-nominated film Amistad, and was featured in “First Person Singular: John Hope Franklin,” a chroncle of his life documented for PBS. In January, 2001, Franklin was the subject of WUNC-TV’s “Biographical Conversations” which includes more than ten hours of footage condensed and presented in three one-hour segments. In addition, along with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, he was featured in “Race and Reconciliation: A Journey Towards Peace,” a PBS documentary filmed on the West African island of Goree which premiered at the Smithsonian Institution.

Until his death in March 2009, John Hope Franklin lived in Durham, North Carolina, where he maintained a 17 x 25 foot greenhouse containing over one hundred orchid specimens and hybrids, of which one, the “Phalaenopsis John Hope Franklin” is named for him.

A special message from former FHI Director Srinivas Aravamudan on the passing of Dr. John Hope Franklin in March 2009