Historian John Hope Franklin was born in Rentiesville, Oklahoma, on January 2, 1915, to Buck Colbert and Mollie Parker Franklin. The family moved to Tulsa in 1925, where young Franklin attended public schools and graduated from Booker T. Washington High School. His father was a pioneer African American attorney in Tulsa.
Franklin received a bachelor of arts degree in 1935 from Fisk University, Nashville, Tennessee. He then received a master's degree and Ph.D. in history from Harvard University in 1936 and 1941, respectively. In the course of his distinguished career Franklin served as professor at Fisk University, Saint Augustine's College (Raleigh, North Carolina), North Carolina Central University (Durham), and Howard University (Washington, D.C.). Subsequently, he was chair of the Department of History at Brooklyn College, John Matthews Manly Distinguished Service Professor of History at the University of Chicago, James B. Duke Professor of History at Duke University, Fulbright Professor in Australia, and Pitt Professor of American History and Institutions at Cambridge University, England. He also served as visiting professor at Harvard University, the University of Wisconsin, Cornell University, the University of California at Berkeley, and the University of Hawaii. In 1997 and 1998 he served as chair of the Advisory Board on the President's Initiative on Race. He has been active in civic and professional life for more than sixty years.
Franklin is the former president of the Southern Historical Association, the Organization of American Historians, the American Studies Association, the American Historical Association, and the National Society of Phi Beta Kappa. His many awards include a Presidential Medal of Freedom (1995), the Jefferson Medal of the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (1984), the Clarence Holte Literary Prize (1985), the Jefferson Medal of the American Philosophical Society, and the National Endowment for Humanities Charles Frankel Award (presented by President Clinton in 1993). He has been inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame (1978) and the Afro-American Hall of Fame (Ntu Art Association, 1984). Other honors include the Peggy V. Helmerich Distinguished Author Award (Tulsa Library Trust, 1997), Arrell Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award (1996), Lincoln Prize for the book Runaway Slaves: Rebels on the Plantation (2000), and the Harold Washington Literary Award (2000). He holds more than 130 honorary doctorates.
Among the books written or edited by Franklin are The Free Negro in North Carolina, 1790-1860 (1943), From Slavery to Freedom: A History of American Negroes (1947), The Militant South, 1800-1860 (1956), Reconstruction after the Civil War (1961), The Emancipation Proclamation (1963), Color and Race (1969), Racial Equality in America (1976), George Washington Williams: A Biography (1985), Race and History, Selected Essays (1989), The Color Line: Legacy for the Twenty-First Century (1993), and My Life and an Era: The Autobiography of Buck Colbert Franklin (edited by John Hope Franklin and John Whittington Franklin, 1997).
Franklin and Aurelia Whittington of Goldsboro, North Carolina, were married on June 11, 1940, and to this marriage, one son, John Whittington, was born. Mrs. Franklin died in 1999. At the end of the twentieth century John Hope Franklin resided in Durham, North Carolina.
John Hope Franklin died March 25, 2009.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Jimmie Lewis Franklin, Journey Toward Hope: A History of Blacks in Oklahoma (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1982). Eddie Faye Gates, They Came Searching: How Blacks Sought The Promised Land in Tulsa (Austin, Tex.: Eakin Press, 1997). Kaye Teall, Black History in Oklahoma: A Resource Book (Oklahoma City: Oklahoma City Public Schools, l971). Tulsa (Oklahoma) Eagle, 16 March 2000.
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