In 1956, John Hope Franklin was appointed Professor and Chair of the History Department at Brooklyn College, a predominantly White institution. Franklin’s appointment marked the first time that an African American was appointed chair of any department at a traditionally White institution. The New York Times found Franklin’s appointment so newsworthy that on February 15, 1956, they published an announcement with his photograph on the front page. The headline read: “Negro Educator Chosen to Head Department at Brooklyn College. Howard University Professor Will be First of Race to Hold That Rank Here.” The article noted that Franklin was the first African-American chair of any academic department in the New York State college system.
Franklin was a professor at Brooklyn College from 1956 to 1964 and served as chairman of the History Department over that period. During his tenure at Brooklyn College, Franklin published three important books: The Militant South, 1800-1860 (1956), Reconstruction after the Civil War (1961), and The Emancipation Proclamation (1963).
After leaving Brooklyn College, Franklin maintained strong ties with the institution. In 1981, he was invited to be the commencement speaker, and in 1990 he delivered the second Charles R. Lawrence II memorial lecture of the Department of Sociology and President’s Office of Brooklyn College.
After Franklin’s death, in an obituary published in The New York Times, Senator Barbara Boxer, Democrat of California, one of Franklin’s former students, said of him: “Having John Hope Franklin at Brooklyn College in the 1960’s was like having a real star in our midst. Students who were lucky enough to get into his class bragged about him from morning until night.”
This series is apart of Duke University’s John Hope Franklin@100: Scholar, Activist, Citizen year-long celebration of the life and legacy of Dr. John Hope Franklin
Submitted by Gloria Ayee, Franklin Research Center Intern