Organization, Friends Salute John Hope Franklin
By Vincent Sherry
The Washington Interdependence Council (WIC) and Friends of Franklin hosted a dinner in honor of renowned scholar John Hope Franklin’s 90th birthday on April 15. Held at Southwest Washington’s Mandarin Oriental Hotel, the event commemorated the author’s legacy, which includes helping craft 1954’s landmark Brown v. Board of Education case, which ended de jure segregation, and penning the African American history textbook From Slavery to Freedom.
The occasion also raised funds to erect a monument for Benjamin Banneker, the African American who planned the city of Washington. Congress has already ratified WIC’s plans to construct the memorial.
The gala featured numerous luminaries and dignitaries, including Master of Ceremonies Juan Williams, host of America’s Black Forum and Washington Post columnist, distinguished historian Lerone Bennett, and Mayor Anthony Williams, who read a proclamation designating April 15, 2005, as John Hope Franklin Day in the District.
“Of all the things Dr. Franklin has said, the statement that touched me most was, ‘We must go beyond text books, travel, and tell the world the glories of our journey as African Americans,’” Mayor Williams said.
Bennett also commended Franklin. “I want you to know and understand the privilege that flows through your veins to be in the room with this giant of a man. You are blessed! You are in the presence of greatness!”
A few former students of Franklin attended the event as well. Seventy-five-year-old Consuella Wilder, who studied under Franklin at Howard University, recalled him fondly and noted the historic happenings of those times.
“He was an excellent teacher—always fair. He was a task master. He was often sarcastic and made history interesting,” Wilder said. “Howard was great then and is still great. He and several other men who were students at the law school, including Thurgood Marshall, were then being prepared to mount the Civil Rights Movement.”
Wilder was a successful teacher and was among the first to integrate Johns Hopkins University. She and Franklin still keep in touch, and Franklin remembers her vividly. She credits her prosperity to his tutelage.
Franklin has amassed a rare array of accolades. Although he possesses 126 honorary degrees and attended Harvard University to receive his Ph.D., Franklin’s highest distinction is receiving the Medal of Freedom awarded in 1996 by former President Bill Clinton. This is considered the nation’s most exalted award.
The academician’s career includes teaching at the University of Chicago, Cambridge University, Duke University and Howard University. He has been the subject of several documentaries and has authored many scholarly works on the African American experience and race relations. Franklin is also writing an autobiography entitled Mirror to America.
Copyright, Washington Interdependence Council, 2014