Friday, March 27, 2009

Before Carter G. Woodson, the scope of African-American contributions to the history of the United States consisted of one sentence in most public school text books. "Negroes were slaves and were freed by Abraham Lincoln". Carter G. Woodson began to find, publish and celebrate the nuggets of facts that related to African-Americans (In 1916 he founded the Journal of Negro History). African-Americans began, for the first time, to be included in mainstream history but only as side notes, footnotes and antidotes. It was John Hope Franklin who first began to weave the African-American experience into the fabric of United States History.

John Hope Franklin was the architect of Black Experience and African-American Studies as academic disciplines. If W.E.B Dubois had raised the question of "race" in America with The Souls of Black Folks (published in 1903), then Franklin strove to answer the question. From Slavery to Freedom has been, for sixty years, the definitive book for the study of the history of the United States from the point of view of African Americans. It is not just required reading in the fundamental study of a more representative history. Since 1947 it has remained the textbook. His life work on education and race relations earned him the highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

As a result of his work, both on the front lines of race relations and in the ivory tower, public school text books are more inclusive. Dialogue between the races is more civil and productive. United States history is more accurate and complete. Franklin's gift for tenaciously and meticulously pursuing the truth through sometimes tedious research was his gift to the world. Throughout his long life he was dedicated to improving the world through scholarly enlightenment. He believed knowledge should spur action. He was a shining example of how men and women with keen minds should conduct themselves. He will be remembered as an intellectual giant and a credit to his race. The human race.

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