Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book


Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  John Hope Franklin  

Pen Name: None

Genre:

Born: January 2, 1915 in Rentiesville, Oklahoma

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Illinois Connection

Franklin lived in Chicago. From 1964 through 1968, Franklin was a professor of history at the University of Chicago, and chair of the department from 1967-70. He was named to the endowed position of John Matthews Manly Distinguished Service Professor, which he held from 1969-82.

Biographical and Professional Information

John Hope Franklin was a noted scholar, historian, author and professor. He was a revered Duke University historian and scholar of life in the South and the African-American experience in the United States. Professor Emeritus of History at Duke University, he was best known for his work ''From Slavery to Freedom'', first published in 1947. Born and raised in an all-black community in Oklahoma where he was often subjected to humiliating incidents of racism, he was later instrumental in bringing down the legal and historical validations of such a world.As an author, his book ''From Slavery to Freedom'' was a landmark integration of black history into American history. As a scholar, his research helped Thurgood Marshall win Brown v. Board of Education, the 1954 case that outlawed the doctrine of "separate but equal" in the nation's public schools.Franklin broke numerous color barriers. He was the first black department chair at a predominantly white institution, Brooklyn College; the first black professor to hold an endowed chair at Duke University; and the first black president of the American Historical Association.Above all, he documented how blacks had lived and served alongside whites from the nation's birth. Black patriots fought at Lexington and Concord, Franklin pointed out in "From Slavery to Freedom," published in 1947. They crossed the Delaware with Washington and explored with Lewis and Clark. The text sold millions of copies and remains required reading in college classrooms.Late in life, Franklin chaired President Clinton's Initiative on Race and received more than 100 honorary degrees, the NAACP's Spingarn Award and in 1995 the ''Presidential Medal of Freedom'', the nation's highest civilian honor.As he aged, Franklin spent more time in the greenhouse behind his home, where he nursed orchids, than in library stacks. He fell in love with the flowers because "they're full of challenges, mystery" — the same reasons he fell in love with history.


Published Works Expand for more information


Titles At Your Library

The Free Negro in North Carolina, 1790-1860.
ISBN: 0846214032

Russell&Russell Pub. 1969

John Hope Franklin has devoted his professional life to the study of African Americans. Originally published in 1943 by UNC Press, The Free Negro in North Carolina, 1790-1860 was his first book on the subject. As Franklin shows, freed slaves in the antebellum South did not enjoy the full rights of citizenship. Even in North Carolina, reputedly more liberal than most southern states, discriminatory laws became so harsh that many voluntarily returned to slavery.

Runaway Slaves: Rebels on the Plantation
ISBN: 0195084519

Oxford University Press. 2000

From John Hope Franklin, America's foremost African American historian, comes this groundbreaking analysis of slave resistance and escape. A sweeping panorama of plantation life before the Civil War, this book reveals that slaves frequently rebelled against their masters and ran away from their plantations whenever they could.
For generations, important aspects about slave life on the plantations of the American South have remained shrouded. Historians thought, for instance, that slaves were generally pliant and resigned to their roles as human chattel, and that racial violence on the plantation was an aberration. In this precedent setting book, John Hope Franklin and Loren Schweninger demonstrate that, contrary to popular belief, significant numbers of slaves did in fact frequently rebel against their masters and struggled to attain their freedom. By surveying a wealth of documents, such as planters' records, petitions to county courts and state legislatures, and local newspapers, this book shows how slaves resisted, when, where, and how they escaped, where they fled to, how long they remained in hiding, and how they survived away from the plantation. Of equal importance, it examines the reactions of the white slaveholding class, revealing how they marshaled considerable effort to prevent runaways, meted out severe punishments, and established patrols to hunt down escaped slaves.
Reflecting a lifetime of thought by our leading authority in African American history, this book provides the key to truly understanding the relationship between slaveholders and the runaways who challenged the system--illuminating as never before the true nature of the South's "most peculiar institution."

The Militant South, 1800-1861
ISBN: 0252070690

University of Illinois Press. 2002

Identifies the factors and causes of the South's festering propensity for aggression that contributed to the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861. This title asserts that the South was dominated by militant white men who resorted to violence in the face of social, personal, or political conflict. It details the consequences of antebellum aggression.

Mirror to America: The Autobiography of John Hope Franklin
ISBN: 0374299447

Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 2005

John Hope Franklin lived through America’s most defining twentieth-century transformation, the dismantling of legally protected racial segregation. A renowned scholar, he has explored that transformation in its myriad aspects, notably in his 3.5-million-copy bestseller, From Slavery to Freedom. Born in 1915, he, like every other African American, could not help but participate: he was evicted from whites-only train cars, confined to segregated schools, threatened—once with lynching—and consistently subjected to racism’s denigration of his humanity. Yet he managed to receive a Ph.D. from Harvard

become the first black historian to assume a full professorship at a white institution, Brooklyn College

and be appointed chair of the University of Chicago’s history department and, later, John B. Duke Professor at Duke University. He has reshaped the way African American history is understood and taught and become one of the world’s most celebrated historians, garnering over 130 honorary degrees. But Franklin’s participation was much more fundamental than that.

From his effort in 1934 to hand President Franklin Roosevelt a petition calling for action in response to the Cordie Cheek lynching, to his 1997 appointment by President Clinton to head the President’s Initiative on Race, and continuing to the present, Franklin has influenced with determination and dignity the nation’s racial conscience. Whether aiding Thurgood Marshall’s preparation for arguing Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, marching to Montgomery, Alabama, in 1965, or testifying against Robert Bork’s nomination to the Supreme Court in 1987, Franklin has pushed the national conversation on race toward humanity and equality, a life long effort that earned him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, in 1995. Intimate, at times revelatory, Mirror to America chronicles Franklin’s life and this nation’s racial transformation in the twentieth century, and is a powerful reminder of the extent to which the problem of America remains the problem of color.

In Search of the Promised Land: A Slave Family in the Old South (New Narratives in American History)
ISBN: 0195160886

Oxford University Press. 2006

The matriarch of a remarkable African American family, Sally Thomas went from being a slave on a tobacco plantation to a "virtually free" slave who ran her own business and purchased one of her sons out of bondage. In Search of the Promised Land offers a vivid portrait of the extended Thomas-Rapier family and of slave life before the Civil War.
Based on personal letters and an autobiography by one of Thomas' sons, this remarkable piece of detective work follows the family as they walk the boundary between slave and free, traveling across the country in search of a "promised land" where African Americans would be treated with respect. Their record of these journeys provides a vibrant picture of antebellum America, ranging from New Orleans to St. Louis to the Overland Trail. The authors weave a compelling narrative that illuminates the larger themes of slavery and freedom while examining the family's experiences with the California Gold Rush, Civil War battles, and steamboat adventures. The documents show how the Thomas-Rapier kin bore witness to the full gamut of slavery--from brutal punishment, runaways, and the breakup of slave families to miscegenation, insurrection panics, and slave patrols. The book also exposes the hidden lives of "virtually free" slaves, who maintained close relationships with whites, maneuvered within the system, and gained a large measure of autonomy.

Collecting African American Art: The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
ISBN: 0300152914

Museum Fine Arts Houston. 2009

This important book showcases institutional and private efforts to collect, document, and preserve African American art in American’s fourth largest city, Houston, Texas. Eminent historian John Hope Franklin’s essay reveals his passionate commitment to collect African American art, while curator Alvia J. Wardlaw discusses works by Robert S. Duncanson, Henry Ossawa Tanner, Horace Pippen, and Bill Traylor as well as pieces by contemporary artists Kojo Griffin and Mequitta Ahuja. Quilts, pottery, and a desk made by an African American slave for his daughter contribute to the overview.

The book also focuses on the collections of the “black intelligentsia,” African Americans who taught at black colleges like Fisk University, where Aaron Douglas founded the art department. A number of the artists represented were collected privately before they were able to exhibit in mainstream museums.