Friday, March 27, 2009
In Tribute to an Esteemed Scholar of American History-
John Hope Franklin, 1915-2009
I was first introduced to John Hope Franklin by NCBLA Board Member Patricia McKissack ten years ago when the NCBLA Board of authors and illustrators panel discussion was the launch event for the Library of Congress's first National Book Festival. Pat and I were walking outside the Madison building crossing the street to get to the Jefferson, when Pat let out what can only be described as a delighted squeal, not unlike a teen's reaction to spotting a pop artist or a major league sports star--except that Pat had not spied Tiger Woods or Beyonce, she had seen John Hope Franklin walking down the street, one of our nation's most honored historians. Pat went right up to Mr. Franklin, reintroducing herself, and introduced me, too. We had a lovely chat with Pat sharing with Mr. Franklin how much his work had influenced her own historical research and notable writing. The phrase "scholar and gentleman" only begins to describe the impression made by Professor Franklin on one not so well versed in his work, and that fascinating encounter inspired me to read much more of John Hope Franklin's writing.
Over the course of eight years researching the NCBLA's recent publication, Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out, I ran into Professor Franklin a couple of times. He expressed interest in the progress of Our White House, offered fascinating perspectives on the American Presidency, and helped me to visualize what the city of Washington would have looked like 200 years ago, the new capital of democracy, where slave pens and auction blocks were literally steps away from the President's House.
To be in the company of a great scholar, even for a few short moments, is such a privilege and an honor. John Hope Franklin vastly enriched our nation with his work. All of our children's lives are better because he walked on this planet. -- Mary Brigid Barrett, President and Executive Director, NCBLA
To read the New York Times obituary of and editorial tribute to Professor Franklin, go to:
For a three hour interview of John Hope Franklin, go to:
The John Hope Franklin Collection for African and African American Documentation: