History Maker Advances Scholarship for All
John Hope Franklin, PhD
Fulbright U.S. Scholar, United Kingdom, 1954; Australia, 1960; Distinguished Fulbright U.S. Scholar, Venezuela, 1973; Zimbabwe, 1986; Brazil, 1987
Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, Member, 1962-1969, and Chair, 1966-69
An influential and prolific scholar of African American history, Dr. John Hope Franklin expanded the American consciousness, blazed a trail for scholars of color, and championed international education. Committed to education and justice, Dr. Franklin’s participation in and support of the Fulbright Program as a U.S. Scholar and Chairman of the Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board benefitted local and global communities, one connection at a time.
Dr. Franklin grew up in segregated Oklahoma, encountering racism throughout his life and education. He channeled these formative experiences into illuminating the African American story, opening the door to a new body of work: African American Studies. A groundbreaking historian, Dr. Franklin’s 1947 publication, From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African Americans, is a definitive text on African American history. Studying and teaching at some of the nation’s leading institutions, he also was a trailblazer as the first African American graduate student in the Department of History at Harvard University, and as the first person of color to head a major history department in the United States with his position at Brooklyn College. Outside of the classroom, Dr. Franklin wrote and worked alongside notable public figures and activists, including the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois, and the Honorable Thurgood Marshall.
His love of scholarship resulted in several Fulbright opportunities, first attending a 1954 Fulbright Conference on American Studies at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, and later teaching and conducting research in Australia (1960), Venezuela (1973), Zimbabwe (1986), and Brazil (1987). He was appointed to the Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board in 1962 and served as Chair of the Board from 1966 through 1969. For his contributions, he was recognized with the Fulbright Association’s 2007 Fulbright Lifetime Achievement Award, which honors Fulbright alumni whose “distinguished careers and civic and cultural contributions have sought to expand the boundaries of human wisdom, empathy, and perception.”
Dr. Franklin received countless awards for his incisive work, including more than 100 honorary degrees. Most notably, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, in 1995. Working to promote racial dialogue throughout communities in the nation, he was selected to President Clinton’s Advisory Board to the President’s Initiative on Race in 1997, and was the Founding Chairman of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) Scholarly Advisory Committee. He also served as President of Phi Beta Kappa, the United States’ oldest and most prestigious academic honor society.
In 1954, John Hope Franklin began his Fulbright journey; he joined a program created to further knowledge and foster mutual understanding. After more than 70 years of writing, teaching, and advocacy, Dr. John Hope Franklin’s words live on at the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Featured prominently in the entrance hall’s exhibit space, his words advise: “We’ve got to tell the unvarnished truth.”