Personal history from a towering figure in U.S. historical circles and a key player in our current understanding of race in America.
“Born in 1915, I grew up in a racial climate that was stifling to my senses,” Franklin (From Slavery to Freedom, 2000) writes. Here the scholar explores the issue of race in America through his own experience. He recalls his parents' long-distance relationship, necessitated by poverty (few people wanted to hire his father, a black lawyer, for fear of losing the jury's sympathy), his college days at Fisk, the failure of his first proposal to the woman who became his wife and his son's first words. He offers a staggering list of professional successes, achieved through a combination of high intelligence, relentless drive and a strong sense of social responsibility. (The reader will search in vain for any other secrets to his success.) Franklin decided early on that he wanted to reach the pinnacle of scholarship. He secured a Ph.D. from Harvard (at age 26, no less), broke the color barrier as a tenure-track professor at multiple institutions, consulted with Thurgood Marshall on Brown v. Board of Education and served on the Fulbright board, heading President Clinton's Initiative on Race. Among the stories of prejudice Franklin recalls is the time he attempted to serve in World War II, only to be told that, while there was a desperate need for soldiers, the policy was to limit blacks to menial positions. Says Franklin: “During my life it has been necessary to work not only as hard as my energies would permit, but to do it as regularly and as consistently as humanly possible.”
An important work by an eyewitness to the events of the 20th century.