Yesterday the State of Oklahoma bestowed one of its highest honors on Dr. John Hope Franklin by placing a portrait of him alongside other notable native Oklahomans in the State Capitol Gallery.
Often called “the father of African American Studies” (Dr. Franklin disliked the term, thinking it too narrow) Dr. John Hope Franklin was one of the greatest historians ofÂ the 20th century, filling in the gaps in the American story left by bigotry and neglect. He said that it was his goal “to weave into the fabric of American history enough of the presence of blacks so that the story of the United States could be told adequately and fairly.” His seminal work From Slavery to Freedom is one of the landmark texts of American Studies and has influenced generations of scholars. Franklin was a graduate of Booker T. Washington High School in Tulsa, Fisk University, Howard University, and Harvard, eventually teaching for many years at Duke University in North Carolina. Franklin was not only interested in the past, however. As a member of the NAACP legal team in the 1950s, he developed the sociological argument that eventually defeated school segregation in Brown Vs. Board of Education.
The portrait, by esteemed portrait artist Everett Raymond Kinstler, will hang in the second floor rotunda. It is worth mentioning that Dr. Franklin’s family would have been in attendance, but they were in Washington D.C. that Wednesday morning at the groundbreaking of the new National Museum of African American History and Culture. In 2005, Dr. John Hope Franklin had chaired the Scholarly Advisory Committee that helped bring to fruition this new Smithsonian Museum in the National Mall.
Prior to his death in 2009, Dr. Franklin made one of his last public appearances during the groundbreaking of the John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park in Tulsa. Reflecting on his life he noted that he, “would like [his] students to take up where [he] left off and to carry one the fight to establish history as a powerful force for good – a constructive force to rectify the ills of our society – to change the world, as it were.”