In June 1997, President Bill Clinton announced the creation of “One America in the 21st Century: The President’s Initiative on Race,” a 15-month initiative that was established to encourage community dialogue on race relations in the United States. Through the development of guidelines to promote national dialogue, the Board hoped to bridge racial divides and calm tensions, increase understanding about racial issues, and develop concrete solutions to racial challenges.
John Hope Franklin was appointed Chairman of the seven member advisory board whose members included: William F. Winter (former Democratic Governor of Mississippi), Linda Chavez-Thompson (Executive Vice-President, AFL-CIO), Robert Thomas (President and CEO of Nissan Motor Corporation, USA), Angela E. Oh (attorney), Susan D. Johnson Cook (Senior Pastor, Bronx Christian Fellowship), and Thomas H. Kean (former Republican Governor of New Jersey).
The President’s Advisory Board on Race faced intense public scrutiny and was widely criticized by civil rights activists, who felt that the Board did not have a tangible end goal, and could not adequately represent the interests of the entire population on race matters. Critics also felt that dialogue was not sufficient for addressing serious race related problems in the United States.
In spite of the negative press the initiative endured, Franklin felt the work of the board was a much needed step in having a national conversation on race.
One of John Hope Franklin’s most well known hobbies was growing orchids and he had a prized collection, which included over 1000 orchids of different varieties, shapes, and sizes. In 1959, while teaching in Hawaii, Franklin became fascinated with the precious flower.
Many of Franklin’s orchids were acquired during his travels around the world, and he built greenhouses in his homes in Brooklyn, Chicago, and Durham to cultivate and house his special collection of orchid specimens and hybrids. Franklin’s custom-built greenhouse at his home in Durham measured 17 x 25 feet.
In 1976, John T. Wilson, president of the University of Chicago named an orchid hybrid in honor of Franklin, the Phalaenopis John Hope Franklin. The flower, which is white and red in color, is recognized by Britain’s Royal Horticultural Society. Another species of orchid was named in honor of Aurelia Franklin after her passing in 1999.
The Franklin family was renowned for their orchid collection, and frequently showed them off to visitors to their home; John Hope frequently referred to them as his “babies.”
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), founded in 1909, is the oldest and largest civil rights organization in the United States.
In 1949, the NAACP approached John Hope Franklin to provide his expertise and testify at the Lyman Johnson v. University of Kentucky trial. The Johnson case successfully challenged the “separate but equal” doctrine that had been established by the Plessy v. Fergusson trial of 1896. John Hope Franklin later worked as the lead historian for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund team in preparation for Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. Franklin’s research contributed to Thurgood Marshall and the NAACP’s legal victory in this landmark case.
His relationship with the NAACP continued throughout his life, serving as a memeber of committees of the Legal Defense Fund and a mentor to a number of leaders in the organization. In 1995, the NAACP honored John Hope Franklin with the Spingarn Medal, “in recognition of an unrelenting quest for truth and the enlightenment of Western Civilization.” The Spingarn Medal is the NAACP’s highest honor, and is awarded annually to a person of African descent and American citizenship. The recipient of the Spingarn Medal is an individual who has attained high achievement and distinguished merit in any field.
Mirror to America: The Autobiography of John Hope Franklin is a riveting memoir that chronicles Franklin’s life and offers a candid account of America’s complex history of civil rights the final book written by Franklin. Mirror to America was published in 2005 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Franklin spent a number of years researching his own history, locating documents related to his family and his hometown, Rentiesville, Oklahoma. Once the book was completed, Franklin went on a national speaking tour, to not only share his personal story but discuss the impact of race in the many events he witnessed in American history.
In 2011, two years after Franklin’s death, Mirror to America received the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights Book Award. The RFK Book Award is presented to a novelist who “most faithfully and forcefully reflects Robert Kennedy’s purposes – his concern for the poor and the powerless, his struggle for honest and even-handed justice, his conviction that a decent society must assure all young people a fair chance, and his faith that a free democracy can act to remedy disparities of power and opportunity.”
After the Tulsa Riots occurred in 1921, Buck Franklin, John Hope’s father, was separated from the family for extended periods of time until the entire Franklin family was able to move to Tulsa, OK in 1925. Over the period of separation, Mollie Franklin, John Hope’s mother, took charge of family affairs and raising the children, and even taught John Hope how to fish, in preparation to be a boy scout. Fishing would remain a lifelong hobby for John Hope Franklin. As a young man, he would go fishing with his father. Later in life, John Hope would frequently go fishing in Montana.
In addition to fishing, Franklin loved to cook. His friends and students often spoke about the delicious meals that he prepared, and they described him as an excellent cook. The Franklin family were revered as hosts to anyone who visited their home.
John Hope and his wife Aurelia also traveled extensively due to his extremely busy speaking engagements and visiting professor commitments.
Another of John Hope Franklin’s hobbies was growing orchids and he had a prized collection, which included over 1000 orchids of different varieties, shapes, and sizes. Franklin built his first substantial greenhouse at his home in Brooklyn, New York.
Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. is a publishing house located in New York. The company was founded by Alfred A. Knopf, Sr. in 1915, was acquired by Random House in 1960, and is now part of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.
Alfred A. Knopf published John Hope Franklin’s seminal work, From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African Americans in 1947. In 1945, John Hope Franklin wrote to Knopf to see if the publisher would be interested in his project on the Martial South. On December 13, 1945, Robert Shugg, editor of the College Department replied that Knopf’s interest in the project would require an outline to see if the project was appealing to them. But in the second part of his letter, Shugg asked if Franklin would be interested in writing a history of the Negro. Franklin’s initial response was lukewarm, as his interests were primarily in the history of the American South. But correspondence between the two continued over a number of months until Franklin agreed to Knopf’s proposal.
In six months, Franklin wrote the first five chapters of his work under the title “The American Negro: A History.” Robert Shugg noted, “It promises to be a book of genuine distinction, not only as a useful text but as an interesting and authoritative reference work for a good many years to come.” Even with modest sales of the first edition, Knopf contracted an updated second edition for printing in 1954. The burgeoning civil rights movement spawned a global interest in the history of African Americans, and From Slavery to Freedom served as a guide to understanding the changes taking place in America. Knopf continued publication of the work through it’s 8th edition.
Established in 1972, the Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities is the highest honor that the United States federal government confers on an individual for distinguished intellectual achievement in the humanities.
In 1976, The National Endowment for the Humanities invited John Hope Franklin to be the fifth Jefferson Lecturer in the Humanities. Franklin gave three lectures as part of the series; the first lecture was given in Washington, D.C., the second in Chicago, and the final lecture was in San Francisco.
Incidentally, Franklin received the invitation to give his lectures during the same year as the bicentennial of the Declaration of Independence. Franklin’s three lectures focused not only on Thomas Jefferson, but also on the topic of “Racial Equality in America.” The first lecture was titled “The Dream Deferred” and focused on the period from the revolution to 1820. The second lecture was titled “The Old Order Changeth Not” and explored the 19th century. The third lecture was titled “Equality Indivisible” and discussed events and issues of the 20th century.
In a scathing critique of Thomas Jefferson, Franklin highlighted the differences between perceptions and reality in some commonly held beliefs about race by using government texts and extensive data from the Census, property documents, as well as other sources.
Franklin’s lectures for the Jefferson lecture series were compiled and published in the book Racial Equality in America. The book was published by the University of Missouri Press in 1976.
John Hope Franklin and his wife Aurelia lived in the state of Illinois, specifically in Chicago, for several years. In 1964, Franklin joined the faculty at the University of Chicago, where he served as Chair of the History Department from 1967-1970, and was the John Matthews Manly Distinguished Service Professor from 1969-1982, he became Professor Emeritus in 1982.
During his tenure at the University of Chicago, Franklin published Color and Race (1969), and Illustrated History of Black Americans (1970), Racial Equality in America and Southern Odyssey: Travelers in the Antebellum North (1976). Franklin also served as advisor to over twenty PhD graduates from the department of history, including noted scholars Genna Rae McNeil, Paul Finkelman, Juliet E.K. Walker, Loren Schweninger, and Alfred Moss.
Franklin was also entrenched in the community, working on boards and committees of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Public Library, Chicago Urban League and NAACP, and DuSable Museum.
In 1984, four years after John Hope Franklin moved back to Durham, NC, Franklin received the Illinois Humanities Council Public Humanities Award. This annual award is presented to an organization or an individual who has made significant contributions to the civic and cultural life of the State of Illinois through the humanities.
The Rubenstein Library’s research centers annually award travel grants to undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, and independent scholars through a competitive application process. Congratulations—we look forward to sharing our collections with you!
History of Medicine Research Grants
Lindsey Beal, MFA, for photographic research on late nineteenth and early twentieth century obstetric and gynecological instruments.
Elaine LaFay, PhD candidate in History and Sociology of Science, University of Pennsylvania, for dissertation work on “Weathered Bodies, Sickly Lands: Climate, Health, and Place in the Antebellum Gulf South.”
Jaipreet Virdi-Dhesi, PhD, for work on “Deafness is Misery: Advertised Cures for Hearing Loss in Early 20th Century America.”
John Hope Franklin Center for African and African-American History and Culture Research Grants
Wangui Muigai, Princeton University, “An Awful Gladness: Infant Mortality and Race from Slavery to the Great Migration”
Jessica Parr, University of New Hampshire at Manchester, “’Saved from My Pagan Land:’ the Role of Religion in Self-Making in the Black Atlantic, 1660-1820.”
Whitney Stewart, Rice University, “Domestic Activism: The Politics of the Black Home in Nineteenth-Century America”
Brandon Winford, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, “Building New South Prosperity: John Hervey Wheeler, Black Banking, and the Economic Struggle for Civil Rights”
John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History Research Grants
Dana Alsen, Department of History, University of Alabama, “Changing Patterns of Food Consumption in North Carolina, 1945-1989”
Dr. Makeda Best, Dept. of Visual Studies, California College of the Arts, “Sensing Memory: Kodak Cameras, Class, the Haptic, and the Labor of Memory in Late Nineteenth Century America”
Cari Casteel, History of Technology, Auburn University, “The Odor of Things: Deodorant, Gender, and Olfaction in the United States, 1888-2010”
Dr. Victoria Greive, Dept. of History, Utah State University, “Childhood and the Ideology of Domestic Security: Advertising During the Cold War”
Kira Lussier, Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology, University of Toronto, “Managing Your Self: Personality Testing in Corporate America, 1960-present”
Dr. Einav Rabinovitch-Fox, Visiting Scholar, Institute of Research on Women, Gender, and Sexuality, Columbia University, “Ad Women in a (Mad)Men World: Negotiating Gender in the Advertising Business 1910-1930”
Dr. Rebecca Sheehan, United States Studies Center, University of Sydney, “The Rise of the Superwoman: How Sex Remade Gender in America’s Long 1970s”
Dr. Mark Tadajewski, Professor of Marketing, Durham University, “Jean Kilbourne: Recalling the Contributions of a Feminist Critic of Advertising”
Seth Tannenbaum, Department of History, Temple University, “Take Me Out…To the Concession Stand: Baseball, Food, and Citizenship in the Twentieth Century”
Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture, Mary Lily Research Grants
Meaghan Beadle, Ph.D. candidate, history, University of Virginia, “This is What a Feminist Looks Like! Photography and Feminism, 1968-1980.”
Hanne Blank, Ph.D. candidate, history, Emory University, “Southern Women, Feminist Health: Activist Health Service and Communities of Radical Conscience in the Southeastern U.S., 1968-1990.”
Samantha Bryant, Ph.D. candidate, history, University of Nebraska at Lincoln, “‘Black Monster Stalks the City’: The Thomas Wansley Case and the Racialized Cultural Landscape of the American Prison Industrial Complex, 1960 – 1975.”
Jaime Cantrell, Visiting Assistant Professor of English, The Sarah Isom Center for Women’s and Gender Studies, University of Mississippi, “Southern Sapphisms: Race, Sexuality, and Sociality in Literary Productions, 1968-1994.”
Ariel Dougherty, Independent scholar, for book research on film teaching programs for young women, women of color, and queer women.
Anne Gray Fischer, Ph.D. candidate, history, Brown University, for dissertation research on the politics of prostitution in the US from 1960s – 1980s.
Anna Iones, Ph.D. candidate, English language and literature, University of Virginia, “Shocking Violence, Contested Consent: The Feminist Avant-garde from Kathy Acker to Riot Grrrl.”
Catherine Jacquet, Assistant Professor, history, Louisiana State University, Responding to Rape: Contesting the Meanings of Sexual Violence in the United States, 1950-1980.
Whitney Stewart, Ph.D. candidate, history, Rice University, “Domestic Activism: The Politics of the Black Home in Nineteenth-Century America.”
Mary Whitlock, Ph.D. candidate, sociology, University of South Florida, “Examining Forty Years Of The Social Organization Of Feminisms: Ethnography Of Two Women’s Bookstores In the US South.”
Leah Wilson, Master’s student, English, Iowa State University, “Fleeing the Double Bind: Subverting the ‘White Trash’ Label through Female Solidarity and Erotic Power in Dorothy Allison’s Cavedweller.”
George Washington Williams was an accomplished African American intellectual, minister, historian, journalist, lawyer, politician, freelance diplomat, and Civil War veteran. Williams was born in Pennsylvania in 1849 and died in England in 1891.
Williams joined the Union army during the Civil War at age 14, after lying about his age. After receiving a medical discharge from the army in 1868, Williams, who was barely literate, enrolled in the Newton Theological Institution in Massachusetts. He went on to be a prolific preacher and politician in Ohio, among his many other notable professional achievements.
In 1885, Williams wrote a two volume book entitled, A History of the Negro Race in America from 1619 to 1880. The book was not wildly acclaimed or reviewed at the time, and John Hope Franklin first encountered Williams’ work while researching From Slavery to Freedom: A History of the Negro in America. Having never heard of Williams or his book, Franklin determined to write a scholarly work about one of the first African American historians.
John Hope Franklin’s book George Washington Williams: A Biography was first published in 1985 by the University of Chicago. Franklin was awarded the Clarence L. Holte Literary Prize for this work. The book traces the life of George Washington Williams from his birth until his death. It is part biography and part social history, and highlights Franklin’s own quest to uncover Williams’ story. In fact, the publication of this book marked the conclusion of a four decade long pursuit for Franklin.
George Washington Williams gravesite remained unmarked until 1975, when Franklin arranged for a tombstone to be placed over the grave.