Friday, 27 March 2009


My obituary of John Hope Franklin is in today's Guardian (here). It was one of those that was a privilege to be able to write, to say a little about someone whose own career stood as a monument to what was accomplished by the civil rights movement, even though he accomplished much of it in the face of systemic apartheid.

It was also fascinating to discover some stories I hadn't known before, especially that of his namesake, John Hope, educated at Worcester Academy, which I knew well as a teenager, whose father was white and mother black, but who refused every chance to 'pass' in the white world, and became a founder, with WEB DuBois, of the Niagara Movement. Franklin's biography of George Washington Williams seems equally interesting --almost a prototype of the Hope and Hope Franklin characters, and the story of his father Buck resonated because of the bits of Dennis Lehane's The Given Day set in Tulsa's prosperous black areas, a sort of tribal homeland before its time.

It's not just that Franklin was a great man; it's the idea that the power of learning, of writing, of teaching can have such an impact on the 'real' world. That's what we hope, so to speak, might still apply, especially since the battlelines are so much less well-defined in today's world.

1 comment :

Patrick said...

The Lasting Tribute website has updated its memorial pages to include John Hope Franklin.

It's a respectful memorial to John and somewhere to pay tribute to the family's fortitude at this difficult time.

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