John Hope Franklin Dies At Age 94

Wednesday, March 25th 2009, 3:32 pm
By: News On 6

By Jennifer Loren, The News On 6

UNDATED -- Thousands are mourning the death of historian and author Reverend John Hope Franklin.  He was born in Rentiesville and raised in Tulsa, graduating from Booker T. Washington High School.  Franklin made it his life's work to tell the story of African Americans and to make sure their history was included in education.

John Hope Franklin always kept Tulsa close to his heart.  His father, BC Franklin, was a lawyer whose practice was burned to the ground in the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot.  Franklin carried his local life experiences with him throughout his education, receiving a PhD from Harvard, and going on to teach history at Duke University in North Carolina.

"He's also what I would consider to be the dean of African American history. His book, From Slavery to Freedom, published initially in 1947, is probably the seminal book on African American history," said Hannibal B. Johnson, Tulsa author.

Franklin's life work included several books, but also the education of people about the Tulsa Race Riot.  He took part in the 1997 Race Riot Commission and lobbied to include that history in books.

"And was very adamant about the importance of teaching this history, which, at until that point had been almost wholly left out of the curriculum, teaching this history so that the mistakes of the past are not replicated in the present and the future," said Hannibal B. Johnson, Tulsa author.

Beyond the books, he was a public servant.

Franklin was part of the team that developed the civil rights case for Brown versus the Board of Education.  He was the first African American president of the American Historical Association and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1995.

"Certainly he was an inspirational person, a role model and so forth, but in some senses he's still with us," said Hannibal B. Johnson, Tulsa author.

Johnson says we may have lost Franklin physically. But his legacy will live on. In Tulsa, that legacy will live on in the John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park in downtown Tulsa.

The park is situated directly across the street from the new downtown ballpark and is scheduled for completion this summer.  It's a seemingly small gesture for a man with such giant aspirations.  Aspirations that began in Tulsa.

"He always had that connection to Tulsa. Tulsa really was home," said Hannibal B. Johnson, Tulsa author.

Franklin died of congestive heart failure at Duke University Medical Center in North Carolina.  He was 94.

John Hope Franklin Biography

Extended 11/17/2008 Interview with John Hope Franklin

11/17/2008 Related story: Ground Broken At Race Riot Memorial Site