Titled “A Summons to History: The African American Historical Perspective in the Legal Battle for Racial Equality,” Higginbotham’s lecture focused on the role scholars such as historian John Hope Franklin have played in advancing equal rights under the law.
Higginbotham is visiting from Harvard University, where she is the Victor S. Thomas Professor of History and of African and African American Studies and chair of the Department of African and African American Studies. At Duke Law she has taught African American Lives in the Law and Race, Law, and Civil Rights History. A leading scholar of African American religious history, women’s history, civil rights, constructions of racial and gender identity, electoral politics, and the intersection of theory and history, Higginbotham co-authored the ninth edition of Franklin’s seminal book, From Slavery to Freedom, which she substantially revised and rewrote with Franklin’s blessing. She is also the co-editor, with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., of the African American National Biography, which presents African American history through the life stories of more than 4,000 individuals.
Franklin, who died in 2009 at age 94, was the James B. Duke Emeritus Professor of History at Duke University; he taught legal history at Duke Law School from 1985 until 1992. In addition to authoring numerous books, Franklin was a significant figure in the civil rights movement; among his many activities he worked on the Brown v. Board of Education case, joined protestors in a 1965 march led by Martin Luther King, Jr. in Montgomery, Ala., and was appointed by President Clinton to chair the President’s Advisory Board on Race.
The John Hope Franklin Chair was established in 2009 to honor Franklin and his tenure as a professor of legal history at Duke Law School. Gifts from Duke Law alumnus William Louis Dreyfus ’57, The Duke Endowment, and several other donors helped to endow the chair. The Law School awards the chair on a visiting basis to a distinguished scholar until a permanent appointment is made. The lecture is sponsored by the Robert R. Wilson Fund at Duke University.