John Hope Franklin was born in Rentiesville, Oklahoma, in 1915, only fifty years after slavery had been abolished. His father practiced law and his mother taught elementary school, and from an early age the young Franklin learned the power of words and ideas. Following his father’s lead, John Hope Franklin spent every evening reading or writing. From his parents he also learned how to survive and thrive in a time when the color line was indelibly drawn.
In academia, John Hope Franklin found the perfect environment for his insatiable intellectual curiosity and his fervent commitment to justice. Through his published work, he brought needed attention to some of our country’s bleakest chapters. As a distinguished scholar, he has used his authority and expertise to foster political and social change. And as a teacher, he has inspired his many students and colleagues to delve deeper into the causes and remedies of inequality, bigotry, and oppression.
To satisfy his lively mind, John Hope Franklin decided early in his professional career to examine history from a variety of perspectives, to scrutinize new areas or subjects regularly, and to seek collaborative opportunities throughout the international community. This interdisciplinary and international approach contributed to John Hope Franklin’s prodigious output, but, more importantly, it helped redene how historians and scholars seek partnerships with peers in other institutions and countries.
With the launching of the John Hope Franklin Center for Interdisciplinary and International Studies, Duke University celebrates the spirit and scholarship of John Hope Franklin. As he once told the American Council of Learned Societies, “When we also learn that this country and the western world have no monopoly on goodness and truth or of skills and scholarship, we begin to appreciate the ingredients that are indispensable to making a better world. In a life of learning that is, perhaps, the greatest lesson of all.”