John Hope Franklin
Professor of Legal History, 1985-1992

John Hope Franklin was an eminent historian and scholar whose career spanned seventy years.  In 1983 he was appointed as Duke University’s James B. Duke Professor of History.  Two years later he assumed emeritus status but continued teaching as Duke Law’s Professor of Legal History, a position he held until 1992.  Franklin co-taught a three-part course on Constitutional History along with William E. Leuchtenburg, the Kenan Chair in History at UNC-Chapel Hill, and Duke Law Professor Walter E. Dellinger III.

Franklin completed his A.B. at Fisk University in 1935.  He earned an M.A. and a doctorate in history from Harvard in 1936 and 1941 respectively.  He began teaching while still at Fisk, and went on to teach at North Carolina Central University and Howard University.  In 1956 Franklin became the chair of the history department at Brooklyn College, and was the first person of color to chair a major history department.  He was recruited by the University of Chicago in 1964, and in 1969 became that institution’s John Matthews Manly Distinguished Service Professor.

Franklin was the Herman Phleger Visiting Professor at Stanford Law School in the spring of 1989 and in 1990 was the Matthew O. Tobriner Lecturer at the Hastings College of Law.  He was president of the United Chapters of Phi Beta Kappa and the American Historical Association, among other scholarly organizations.  Franklin was the Pitt Professor of American History and Institutions at Cambridge University in 1962.  He was a member of many national commissions including the National Council on the Humanities and UNESCO.  Franklin’s reputation as a scholar was made in 1947 with the publication of his book, From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African-Americans, which is still considered the definitive account of the black experience in America, now in its 9th edition..

He remained active until shortly before his death in 2009.


Duke University, School of Law, Bulletin of Duke University School of Law [serial]

John Hope Franklin, Scholar Who Transformed African American History, Dies at Age 94 [], John Hope Franklin Center for Interdisciplinary and International Studies, Duke University (last viewed April 2, 2015)

Photo credit John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Duke University

John Hope Franklin
Historic Faculty