An eyewitness to racial history of 20th century

Historian John Hope Franklin, 91, will lecture at the Pratt Library

June 15, 2006|By JOE BURRIS | JOE BURRIS,SUN REPORTER

At 91, John Hope Franklin's got stories, hundreds of them. With a grandfather's tone and griot's energy, the renowned African-American historian speaks not as someone who's passing down family history about segregated facilities or racial hostility and defiance.

He speaks as someone who at age 6 was thrown off a train when his mother refused to move to a blacks-only section, someone who at 19 was cornered by a group of white men, one of whom asked if he feared being lynched. And someone who at 80 was ordered to hang up a white guest's coat at a Washington club where he was a member.

"An Evening with John Hope Franklin" 6 tonight at Enoch Pratt Free Library, Central Library, Main Hall, 400 Cathedral St. Call 410-396-5430.

Excerpt

From John Hope Franklin's autobiography, Mirror to America:

During my first year as a Boy Scout, age twelve, I was in downtown Tulsa and spied an elderly white woman hesitantly attempting to cross the street. It was obvious that her sight was impaired, and I rushed to help her, thus fulfilling the Boy Scout requirement to do one good deed each day. She eagerly accepted my assistance. However, when we were in the middle of the intersection and exchanging pleasantries, she asked me if I was white or Negro. When I replied that I was Negro, she shook my arm loose, commanding me to take my filthy hands off her. Realizing that for her my race defined my cleanliness as well as my ability to guide her safely across a busy intersection, I left her stranded in the middle of traffic.

John Hope Franklin

Born:

Jan. 2, 1915 in Rentiesville, Okla.

Wife:

Aurelia E. Whittington (deceased)

Son:

John Whittington Franklin, 52, program manager for the Smithsonian Institution's Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage

Education:

Bachelor's degree from Fisk University in 1935; master's degree from Harvard University in 1935 and a Ph.D. from Harvard in 1941

Occupation:

Professor Emeritus at Duke University. Taught at institutions, including Howard University and the University of Chicago

Writings:

Most noted for the book, From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African-Americans, now in its eighth edition. Also wrote The Emancipation Proclamation and The Militant South

Honors:

Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Spingarn Medal in 1995

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