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Duke University to Honor Historian John Hope Franklin

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Franklin

Duke University will host “A Celebration of the Lives of John Hope and Aurelia Whittington Franklin” next week, to honor the late historian and his late wife, who were married on June 11, 1940.

Featured speakers at the June 11 event include former U.S. President Bill Clinton, who in 1997 appointed John Hope Franklin to chair a national task force on race, and attorney and civil rights leader Vernon Jordan, Franklin’s longtime friend. Duke trustee emerita Mary Duke Biddle Trent Semans and Duke President Richard H. Brodhead will also give remarks. The celebration is open to the public, and begins at 11 a.m. in Duke Chapel.

John Hope Franklin, a chronicler of history who also shaped it, died March 25 from congestive heart failure. He was 94 years old.

In 1947, Franklin wrote “From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African-Americans,” his seminal work that is often touted as the foremost work in African American history. His research for the book led him to segregated libraries and archives at universities that wouldn’t even allow him to use the bathroom. One such place, Duke University, later opened the John Hope Franklin Center for Interdisciplinary and International Studies in 2001.

Per Franklin’s wishes, there was no funeral or memorial service following his death. Instead, his family planned a celebration of his and his wife’s lives in honor of their 69th wedding anniversary. Aurelia Whittington Franklin died in 1999.

The Fisk Jubilee Singers of Fisk University, where as students John Hope Franklin met Aurelia Whittington, will perform three selections. Duke violinist Eric Pritchard and trumpet player James Ketch of the University of North Carolina will each perform dedicated works by Chapel Hill composer T.J. Anderson.

The program will be aired live on UNC-TV, and Duke will provide a live Webcast.

– Deborah Creighton Skinner,
with contributions by Marcia A. Wade

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