John Hope Franklin: A life in law and history

April 13, 2009Duke Law News

April 10, 2009 — A Law School panel discussion on April 17 will pay tribute to a lifetime of scholarly achievement. “John Hope Franklin: A life in law and history” will honor the groundbreaking work and achievements of the historian who died March 25 at the age of 94.

The event will begin at 12:15 p.m. in Room 3041 of Duke Law School. A panel discussion will feature Walter Dellinger, the Douglas B. Maggs Professor Emeritus of Law, and William Leuchtenburg, the William Rand Kenan Jr. Professor Emeritus of History at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, both of whom co-taught with Franklin at Duke Law. The panel also will include Thavolia Glymph, associate professor of African and African American Studies and History at Duke University. Dean David F. Levi, a longtime friend of Franklin’s, will moderate the discussion.

One of the country’s preeminent historians, Franklin was the first to fully chronicle African-American history in the United States with his 1947 epic, From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African Americans. He had lived much of the history he wrote about, from his upbringing in segregated Oklahoma, through his role as legal historian to the Brown v. Board of Education litigation team, and in his pioneering leadership positions at traditionally white institutions.

The James B. Duke Emeritus Professor of History at Duke University, Franklin taught Constitutional History at the Law School from 1985 to 1992, and often said that doing so contributed to his development as a scholar. Writing in the Washington Post on March 26, Dellinger said that Franklin wrote, taught, and lived the story of race in America.

Dellinger wrote that he “never ceased to marvel at how [Franklin] managed both to embody this history and yet recount it with an extraordinary candid honesty. Our students would fall into the deepest hush while he recounted his experiences researching … From Slavery to Freedom … in segregated libraries at Southern universities and Southern state libraries. He would describe the various Jim Crow rules he was required to navigate — a separate table from white patrons, a prohibition on being waited on by white female librarians and similar indignities — without a trace of bitterness.”

For more information, contact Forrest Norman at (919) 613-8565 or norman@law.duke.edu.
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