When you think of the top influencers in African-American history and education, Dr. John Hope Franklin certainly tops the list. A celebrated scholar and historian of African and World History, Franklin was born on Jan. 2, 1915 in the predominantly Black community in Rentiesville, Oklahoma, to an attorney father and teacher mother. From birth he was destined for educational hierarchy as he was named after educator and political activist John Hope.
Franklin’s experience with racism and oppression influenced him to excel in education with a focus on African-American history. He graduated from Fisk University in 1935 and gained a doctorate in history in 1941 from Harvard University. He published his most famous book in 1947, From Slavery to Freedom, a textbook which documents African-American origins all the way from Africa to America that is constantly updated to this day.
In edition to writing his own textbook and other literature such as “The Emancipation Proclamation,” “The Militant South” and “The Free Negro in North Carolina,” Franklin was also a professor. He began his teaching career at Fisk University and during WWII he taught at St. Augustine's College and North Carolina College.
He went on to teach at Howard University from 1947 to 1956 and became the first African-American to become the chair of a department at Brooklyn College in 1956 as the head of the history department. During the later years of his career he was the James B. Duke Professor Emeritus of History, and for seven years was Professor of Legal History in the Law School at Duke University.
For his dedication and influence in education in America, Franklin received a host of honors and accolades. He was awarded the highest honor an American civilian can receive, the Presidential Medal Of Freedom, in 1995. Franklin died from congestive heart failure on March 25th, 2009. He was 94 years old.
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(Photo: Jim Bounds/Raleigh News & Observer/MCT /Landov)