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John Hope Franklin: A Historian Who Made History

By Brittanie Joyner | February 27, 2018 | Corporate Citizenship

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“I have struggled to understand, how it is that we could fight for independence and, at the very same time, use that newly won independence to enslave many who had joined in the fight for independence.” ~Dr. John Hope Franklin

Black History Month doesn’t mean we should treat black history as though it is a separate history from American history.  Black history is in fact at the core of our country’s roots. It is the story of how we as a nation have struggled in our quest for independence and how we continue working toward equality for all.

During the month of February, we take time to acknowledge some often overlooked Americans of our past and present. At Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, we honor those who have made our great state even greater.

Dr. John Hope Franklin graduated from Fisk and Harvard 

Dr. Franklin was born in 1915 in Rentiesville, Oklahoma. By the age of 27, he had graduated from both Fisk University and Harvard University receiving his masters and doctorate degrees. Dr. Franklin was best known for his writing, authoring several books including From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African-Americans, which is credited with creating African-American studies as a discipline. He saw himself as a historian who dealt not simply with race, but with the history of the South. He was active within the civil rights movement and worked on landmark cases like Lyman Johnson v. The University of Kentucky and Brown v. The Board of Education.

In 1956, Dr. Franklin became the first black scholar to be appointed department head at Brooklyn College, a historically white institution. He was also the first African-American leader of the American Historical Association. Later in his life, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Bill Clinton in 1995, becoming a historical figure himself by earning America’s highest civilian honor. In all, he amassed more than 100 honorary degrees and additional accolades. He was appointed professor emeritus at Duke University where he continued to write and study until he retired. Dr. Franklin died on March 25, 2009, in Durham.

John Hope Franklin Research Center at Duke University

The research center is dedicated to studying primary sources that document the history and culture of Africa and people of African descent in the Americas. It was established in 1995 when Dr. Franklin donated his personal and professional papers to Duke’s Rubenstein Library in order to make those sources available to students, scholars, and researchers. The Center also hosts public events throughout the year, along with curated exhibitions to share its collections and foster understanding of the rich history and culture of Africa and the African Diaspora.

We honor Dr. John Hope Franklin for his passion in preserving the history of the South and of African-Americans. Through his analysis of our past, he moved us toward a better future.