John Hope Franklin, dead at 94


John Hope Franklin died last night at the age of 94. One can visit the memorial site that Duke University, where he taught for so many years, has set up or go to a wonderfully written obituary this morning in the New York Times.

I think knowing one’s history leads one to act in a more enlightened fashion. I can not imagine how knowing one’s history would not urge one to be an activist.

I know of John Hope Franklin more than I have read his work (his seminal work being From Freedom to Slavery: A History of African Americans). Despite an occasional article that I can remember from school, he (to us young ones) silently dictated that arc of history as it spread through what I learned about race and civil rights. Reading about his life gives me a sense of connectedness and hope – Franklin embodied those things. America was a better place with him in it.

I saw him on Book TV about a month ago and was impressed by his methods and his dedication to his flowers. I was flipping through last night to see his face, one last time, before flipping over it quickly, thinking nothing of it. The woke up to find out that we’d lost a great historian – a man that I must soon pick up and read.

The writing of history reflects the interests, predilections, and even prejudices of a given generation. This means that at the present time there is an urgent need to re-examine our past in terms of our present outlook.


~ by Daniel on March 26, 2009.

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