John Hope Franklin: Shares his story, and America's

Historians in the News

If the U.S. government decided to pay reparations to black Americans for centuries of slavery and the economic disparities that followed, historian John Hope Franklin would "never touch one of those pieces of silver."

However, Franklin told a rapt audience Monday at Delaware State University, black Americans are holders of a promissory note that has not been honored.

"This country needs to take note of the fact that its wealth was not made exclusively by Europeans," Franklin said. "It's time to share. It's time to talk about that."

Franklin, 92, is one of the most revered historians of the 20th and 21st centuries. Not only has he written some 20 books on African-American history, he has also been a part of it.

He helped Thurgood Marshall and Louis L. Redding prepare material for the landmark 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education case, in which the Supreme Court outlawed segregation in public schools. Marshall later became a Supreme Court justice, and Redding, Delaware's first black attorney, is an icon of the civil rights movement.

So it was fitting that Franklin delivered his wide-ranging talk as the first Louis L. and J. Saunders Redding Lecture in the Humanities. J. Saunders Redding, Louis Redding's brother, was a literary critic, historian and civil rights activist.

In the lecture, which was sponsored by the Delaware Humanities Forum, Franklin said it took him many years to realize that the essence of history is the individual's place in it.

So he decided to write his autobiography -- "I was always fascinated by my own life, frankly," he said -- and found that he had little original source material....

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