• franklin.jpg
    Duke University professor John Hope Franklin, shown in this 2004 file photo, a revered historian of life in the South and the African-American experience, died Wednesday, March 25, 2009 of congestive heart failure at the university's hospital in Durham. He was 94. (Harry Lynch/Raleigh News & Observer/MCT)
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    John Hope Franklin at the Golden Anniversary at what was then N.C. College at Durham. His Nov. 11, 1960 address celebrated the University's 50th anniversary. Photos courtesy of NCCU Archives

Franklin: godfather of black history

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Students, alumni faculty and visitors gathered in the Nursing Building auditorium Feb. 6 to recollect the lifework of Dr. John Hope Franklin. The program was the first of four events to be held at N. C. Central University for Black History month in celebration of Dr. Franklin’s legacy. This year would have been his centennial. “As a southern history major this celebration is dear to me,” said history senior John Thompson.

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“If you were to put your lives in boxes, how many would you have? Dr. Franklin has over 300 boxes and I think that speaks to his life and legacy.”

John Gartrell, director of the John Hope Franklin Research Center at Duke University
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The program was narrated by N. C. Central University history professor Dr. Freddie Parker. Parker explained the events that led up to Dr. Franklin’s writing “From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African Americans,” the first compositional study about African American life and history. It was here at NCCU (then N.C. College for Negroes) that Dr. Franklin honed his idea to begin writing such a historical text. 

“Although never having met Dr. Franklin personally—after spending a year going through his archives, I feel like I know him well,” said director of the John Hope Franklin Research Center at Duke University John Gartrell. Gartrell has worked in archives for over 10 years and got his start researching runaway for Maryland’s state archives. He has worked at the John Hope Franklin Research Center for the past two years. “I’m really honored to be in charge of a center named after Dr. Franklin,” said Gartrell.

“It’s only been further confirmed to me how important archives are to people of color and ensure our stories are told and saved for generations to come.” The John Hope Franklin Research Center is located in Duke’s Perkins Library and is open to the community from 8am-7pm. “It’s an outstanding facility, they renovated the old facility and will move it back,” said history department chair Harper.

“It has a lot of collections that will explain a lot about African American history.” The second event about Dr. Franklin was held last night by former Dean of the NCCU School of Education, Dr. Walter M. Brown, who discussed his friendship with Dr. Franklin. On Feb. 18 NCCU history graduate students will present their research on Dr. Franklin at 1 p.m. in the A. E. Student Union in Room 144. “If you were to put your lives in boxes, how many would you have?” asked Gartrell. “Dr. Franklin has over 300 boxes and I think that speaks to his life and legacy.”

The Campus Echo is the official student newspaper of N.C. Central University, an HBCU in Durham with about 8,250 students. The Campus Echo is one of the most highly recognized HBCU student newspapers in the nation. In the last 15 years our print and online editions have won over 250 national and regional awards from the Black College Communication Association, the Society for Professional Journalists, the Associated Collegiate Press and the North Carolina College Media Association.

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