Remembering “Dr. Ben” ll In Conversation with Sirius/XM Host, Dr. Wilmer Leon,

OUR COMMON GROUND with Janice Graham

This Week

Tribute to Dr. Yosef Ben-Jochannan  In Conversation with Dr. Wilmer Leon
HOST, “Inside the Issues with Dr. Wilmer Leon
Sirius/XM Radio
March 21, 2015 10 pm ET LIVE

03-21-15 wilmer2

Join the broadcast Here: http://bit.ly/1bkVIxc

dr.ben2ABOUT Dr. Yosef Ben-Jochannan

He was one of the most courageous and inspiring scholars of our time would live for nearly a century, paying personal witness to dramatic transformations in the lives of Black people across the globe. Now a Beloved Ancestor.

ABOUT Dr. WilmerLeon Dr. Leon’s Prescription

Wilmer Leon is the Nationally Broadcast Talk Show Host of “Inside The Issues with Wilmer Leon” Saturday’s from 11:00 am to 2:00pm on Sirius XM (126).

Wilmer_Leon_2011-02-17_18-12-03_webWilmer J. Leon III, Ph.D. is a Political Scientist whose primary areas of expertise are Black Politics and Public Policy. Wilmer has a BS degree in Political Science from Hampton Institute, a Masters in Public Administration (MPA) from Howard University, and a Ph.D. in Political Science from Howard University.Dr. Leon is also the host of XM Satellite Radio’s, “Inside The Issues”, a three-hour, call-in, talk radio program airing live nationally on XM Satellite Radio channel 126.”

Dr. Leon was a featured commentator on CNN’s Lou Dobbs Tonight and is also a regular contributor to The Grio.com, The Root.com, TruthOut.org, The Maynard Institute.com and PoliticsInColor.com. He is an OUR COMMON GROUND Voice for more than 5 years.

We will discuss with Dr. Leon about today’s urgent and pressing issues and events before African-Americans.


                                                                               

Sankofa 2015

                                          BROADCASTING BOLD BRAVE and BLACK

Community Forum:
http://www.ourcommonground-talk.ning.com/

Twitter: @JaniceOCG #TalkthatMatters

OCG Blog: http://www.ourcommongroundtalk.wordpress.com/

Pinterest : http://www.pinterest.com/ocgmedia/boards/

Visit our Tumblr Page: http://ourcommonground.tumblr.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/OCGTALKRADIO

“Speaking Truth to Power and OURselves”

email: OCGinfo@ourcommonground.com

LISTEN LIVE and Join the OPEN Chat: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/OCG
Call In – Listen Line: 347-838-9852

OCG Freedom Note >> Thinking About Black History Month 2014

Runoko Rashidi

“Our history and culture is our immune system.”
–Marimba Ani

Copy (2) of bl_hist_logoThinking About Black History Month 2014

According to whether or not the year leaps or not, February 28th marks the end of what should always be a national celebration of the achievements and contributions made by African-Americans in America – National Black History Month. Despite slavery, government imposed oppressive conditions under which they were made and the lack of routine appropriate vehicles of credit and recordkeeping for tremendous accomplishments, and efforts of denial, it is clear that African-Americans have lifted America in extraordinary ways. In education, politics, science and arts, literature and philosophy there is no absence of an abundance of achievement by our people.  Every American or foreign visitor has experienced our footprint and infusion of cultural richness in the short and painful time of our existence in this nation.

The extraordinary people, inventions, music, dance, art and thoughts of our people recorded or passed along orally are treasures that we all share. Black History Month has become a tradition.  I was a young girl when it was still Black History Week and the only public acknowledgement was within segregated schools and communities, and Black publications. Growing up Black in the South the facts and episodes of our history, the people, their images and their oration was made sacred by my parents, grandparents and people in our community. People like Ida B. Wells, Thurgood Marshall, Jackie Robinson and W.E.B. DuBois were honored and familiar visitors at our breakfast and dinner table. My Mother spoke of the women and for such a long time, I really thought that they were her friends who lived elsewhere.  My Father spoke bleeding his expression with the words of dead men, Carver, Garvey and Douglas recalling their words as though they had relayed them directly to him. Telling the tales of a Harlem in Renaissance, of a budding Malcolm and the lives women crooners named Billie, Sarah who sang with  the Duke, and laughed with Dizzy and Louie. My Dad danced the Savoy and lounged the Paradise and boldly breathed the air of Black progress and pain.  The books, the authors, required and yearned for, bought, shared and placed on shelves for prosperity.  The speeches learned and kept close to the heart.  The people, and the events that they recalled was  testimony validating and affirming the character of the lives of Black folks. Enumerating Black worth in America and checking the validity of the equation.  An account so carefully recorded- a burden so deftly carried. Black people waiting for the Pittsburgh Courier and the Ebony magazine for assurance that they were real.

03-1 2black history So many years later, I not only seek our history to bind my life, but see into it as I navigate forward. This is what we do during this month of February. We raise it up, make it a sacred light illuminating the pathways of our future. It makes us real in the universe, assured that we will always have a special brand of hope which is ours and ours alone. All through the year, we must spend our time putting our lives, the echo of who we are into the record, sorting it and ordering it to build the bridges that will take us safely across.

Thanks for joining with us at OUR COMMON GROUND, or supporting our efforts at OUR COMMON GROUND to honor the ritual to lift up the journal of the Black experience in America. #HistoryMatters

Janice Graham

OUR COMMON GROUND Media & Communications

TruthWorks Network Radio

 

The Annual OUR COMMON GROUND Black History Games >> March 1st LIVE

The Annual OUR COMMON GROUND
Black History Games
March 1, 2014 10 pm ET LIVE

Challenge Your Black History Intelligence

03-1 2black history

20 Questions – 10 Points Each
Call In to pick up Bonus Questions
Call In WITH a BONUS QUESTION
LISTEN LIVE and Join the OPEN Chat: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/OCG
Call In – Listen Line: 347-838-9852

African Americans, as a distinct ethnic variation in the African diaspora, were created by slavery. Millions of Africans wound up in America only because they were kidnapped to fill the needs of a slave economy. This process forged a new people, who became American by necessity, and included 12 generations of chattel slavery. For nearly 250 years, American culture dehumanized those it enslaved and, more insidiously, socialized generations of African Americans for enslavement. The nation’s economic reliance on slavery mandated a rigid and pitiless racial hierarchy.

THE HISTORY of BLACK HISTORY MONTH

As a Harvard-trained historian, Carter G. Woodson, like W. E. B. Du Bois before him, believed that truth could not be denied and that reason would prevail over prejudice. His hopes to raise awareness of African American’s contributions to civilization was realized when he and the organization he founded, the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH), conceived and announced Negro History Week in 1925.
Seeing the need to spread the news about Black history to the general public as well as scholars, Dr. Woodson and the ASNLH pioneered the celebration of “Negro History Week” in 1926, which has since been extended to the entire month of February.
By the time of Woodson’s death in 1950, Negro History Week had become a central part of African American life and substantial progress had been made in bringing more Americans to appreciate the celebration. At mid–century, mayors of cities nationwide issued proclamations noting Negro History Week. The Black Awakening of the 1960s dramatically expanded the consciousness of African Americans about the importance of black history, and the Civil Rights movement focused Americans of all color on the subject of the contributions of African Americans to our history and culture.
The celebration was expanded to a month in 1976, the nation’s bicentennial. President Gerald R. Ford urged Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” That year, fifty years after the first celebration, the association held the first African American History Month. By this time, the entire nation had come to recognize the importance of Black history in the drama of the American story. Since then each American president has issued African American History Month proclamations. And the association—now the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH)—continues to promote the study of Black history all year

03-1 black historyIn honor of this bold act for empowerment of our people, OUR COMMON GROUND celebrates Black History Month with the nation throughout the month. Each year, we use our broadcast to host, the Annual OCG Black History Games. Testing and challenging your Black History intelligence.

About The Games
1. We select and structure 20 questions covering significant facts about events, people and accomplishments in Black History from Reconstruction through 2014. For each question, listeners can assign 10 points for each correct answer. Five (5) of the questions will feature a (5 point bonus) question. Listeners listen for the questions, answer and call in with the answers once all the questions are posed.
2. For bonus points, callers who call in with their scores can ask for an additional listener only question to bolster their overall score.
3. We encourage teams made of family, friends and regular listeners who want partners.

 

#HISTORY MATTERS
#TALKTHATMATTERS

ocggames3

BROADCASTING BOLD BRAVE BLACK 

OUR COMMON GROUND with Janice Graham

“Speaking Truth to Power and Ourselves” 

email: OCGinfo@ourcommonground.com

LISTEN LIVE and Join the OPEN Chat: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/OCG
Call In – Listen Line: 347-838-9852

Community Forum:http://www.ourcommonground-talk.ning.com/

Twitter: @JaniceOCG #TalkthatMatters

Web: http://www.ourcommonground.com/

OCG Blog: http://www.ourcommongroundtalk.wordpress.com/

Pinterest : http://www.pinterest.com/ocgmedia/boards/

Visit our Tumblr Page: http://ourcommonground.tumblr.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/OCGTALKRADIO

“Speaking Truth to Power and Ourselves” 

email: OCGinfo@ourcommonground.com

LISTEN LIVE and Join the OPEN Chat: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/OCG
Call In – Listen Line: 347-838-9852

What Was the 2nd Middle Passage?

What Was the 2nd Middle Passage?

100 Amazing Facts About the Negro: A second forced migration of slaves wasn’t transatlantic.

 

 

Slaves work a cotton gin, drawn by William L. Sheppard, 1869 (Library of Congress)

Editor’s Note: For those who are wondering about the retro title of this black history series, please take a moment to learn about historian Joel A. Rogers, author of the 1934 book 100 Amazing Facts About the Negro With Complete Proof, to whom these “amazing facts” are an homage.

(The Root) — 100 Amazing Facts About the Negro No. 16: What was the second Middle Passage?

Thanks to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, edited by David Eltis and David Richardson, we know that about 388,000 Africans were transported directly to the United States over the course of the slave trade, which ended officially in 1808. This brutally cruel and disruptive phase of the trade, as all American schoolchildren should be taught, is known as “the Middle Passage.” But what is often left out of many survey courses is the second Middle Passage, and that dark chapter in American history involved far more black people than were taken from Africa to the United States. It was also uniquely cruel and brutally destructive. And it unfolded during the era when cotton was “king.”

That second forced migration was known as the domestic, or internal, slave trade: “In the seven decades between the ratification of the Constitution [in 1787] and the Civil War [1861],” the historian Walter Johnson tells us in his book Soul by Soul: Life Inside the Antebellum Slave Market, “approximately one million enslaved people were relocated from the upper South to the lower South … two thirds of these through … the domestic slave trade.” In other words, two and a half times more African Americans were directly affected by the second Middle Passage than the first one.

When we think of the image of slaves being sold “down the river” on auction blocks — mothers separated from children, husbands from wives — it was during this period that these scenes became increasingly common. The enslaved were sometimes marched hundreds of miles to their destinations, on foot and in chains. Indeed, the years between 1830 and 1860 were the worst in the history of African-American enslavement.

Why? Because of the unprecedented growth of the cotton industry. Until Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin and had it patented in 1794, cotton harvesting was extremely labor-intensive. The cotton gin is deceptively simple: It just separates cotton fibers, or “lint,” from the seeds. Before the cotton gin, one person could clean five or six pounds of cotton a day; using the cotton gin, one person could clean a thousand pounds of cotton a day! The effects were immediate and dramatic: As the historian Ronald Bailey explains in an article for Agricultural History, in 1790, the United States produced 1.5 million pounds of cotton; in 1800, it produced 35 million pounds of cotton! By 1830, that figure had grown to 331 million, and by 1860, on the eve of the Civil War, cotton production had grown to 2,275 million pounds. 

The more money the planters made from cotton, the more cotton they wanted to grow. The more cotton the planters wanted to grow, the more slaves they needed to grow the cotton. The world’s desire for cotton — and the Southern planters’ and Northern industrialists’ desire for profits — seemed insatiable. 

Meanwhile, since the slave trade from Africa was ended in 1808, slaves in the Upper South had become extremely valuable commodities. Their owners, whose tobacco plantations were no longer, say, sufficiently profitable, sold them south, in droves. As Ira Berlin concludes in The Making of African America: The Four Great Migrations, “the internal slave trade became the largest enterprise in the South outside of the plantation itself, and probably the most advanced in its employment of modern transportation, finance and publicity.”

Most of us are familiar with the dreadful Trail of Tears, which in 1838 removed the last of the Chickasaw, the Cherokee, the Creek, the Choctaw and the Seminoles from the region of the South known as the “black belt,” resettling them to “Indian Territory,” which became the state of Oklahoma in 1907. Ever wonder why this was necessary? In a word, cotton. These Native American people were living on what was perhaps the richest cotton soil in the world. And their removal, following the Louisiana Purchase, created a scramble to settle their lands and raise cotton, leading to one of the greatest periods in economic expansion and profitability in American history. 

The number of slaves needed in the new states of Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, where cotton reigned, increased by an average of 27.5 percent each decade, demanding that entire families be relocated from plantations in the East and Upper South. As Steven Deyle points out, “Southern slave prices more than tripled,” rising from $500 in New Orleans in 1800, to $1,800 by 1860 (the equivalent of $30,000 in 2005).

Of the 3.2 million slaves working in the 15 slave states in 1850, 1.8 million worked in cotton. No wonder the dominant motto of the era was “Cotton is King!” Cotton produced by slave labor was so profitable that it would take a costly Civil War, and the loss of more than 600,000 lives, to end it.

As always, you can find more “Amazing Facts About the Negro” on The Root, and check back each week as we count to 100.

Henry Louis Gates Jr. is the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and the director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African-American Research at Harvard University. He is also the editor-in-chief ofThe Root.

Three Black Women Pioneers in Technology

images

 

By Victor Trammell

In Black Blue Dog’s month-long Your Black Historytribute, our publication has mostly tried to focus on profiling black Americans in history that have contributed to our society in other areas than sports and entertainment.

Today’s edition of our series, which promotes the historical achievements of black Americans features the stories of three women who pioneered key groundbreaking inventions.

Marie-Van-Brittan-Brown1. Marie Van Brittan Brown

Marie Van Brittan Brown was born on October 30, 1922 in Queens, New York. She was the first person in America to develop the patent for closed circuit television security. Brown’s innovative model was a motorized camera that contained four peepholes. The motorized camera could be moved from one peephole to the other while the camera’s images were able to be displayed on a monitor. The camera’s door could be unlocked remotely by using an electrical switch. Brown was able to officially patent her invention in 1969.  Her brilliant invention laid the ground work for today’s closed circuit television system that law enforcement bureaus and private companies use for crime prevention, traffic monitoring, and surveilance.

220px-Patriciabath2. Dr. Patricia Bath

Dr. Patricia Era Bath was born on November 4, 1942 in Harlem, New York. In 1981, Dr. Bath invented the Laserphaco Probe. The Laserphaco Probe is used to remove cataracts. Cataracts are an eye disease that can cause blindness. However, earlier surgical procedures used to remove cataracts had numerous side effects. In 1988, Dr. Bath perfected her great invention even further and received the first of four patents issued pertaining to the Laserphaco Probe. Dr. Bath’s modifications to the laser probe for cataract removal made the mechanism more accurate and helped the process of removing cataracts occur much more quickly.

Dr-Betty-Harris-351x4143. Dr. Betty Harris

Betty Harris earned her Ph.D. from the University of New New Mexico. After Harris’ earned her doctorate’s  degree in chemistry, she went to work as a reasearch chemist at Los Alamos National Laboratory. While at Los Alamos, Dr. Harris worked specifically in the explosives field. In 1986, Dr. Harris obtained a patent for a mechanism that identified the sensitivity level of explosives. Her contributions were very significant in the field of science. In 1996, Dr. Harris was one of only eight people selected to be inducted in the National Science Foundation’s “Women in Science” profile.

OCG Black History Note: 10 African-American Authors Everyone Should Read

2/18/2012 @ 11:10AM |

10 African-American Authors Everyone Should Read

Frederick Douglass    Frederick Douglass (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The majestic Maya Angelou, whom I met years ago at San Francisco’sGlide Memorial Church, once remarked, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” Sadly, this agony was once common to millions of African-Americans, whose stories often went untold or unheard, let alone published and read by the world.

Nevertheless, many inspiring and irreplaceable voices heroically surfaced over the years. They belong in the canon of great American authors not solely because of their race, but because they deftly address the perennial concerns of all humanity.

It’s Black History Month, in case you forgot. Not Taiwanese-American NBA Basketball Player Appreciation Month (read: Linsanity), as it might appear from news reports. In that spirit, below find ten African-American authors whose works should rest prominently on every educated American’s bookshelf (or Amazon Kindle,Barnes and Noble Nook, or Apple iPad). Moreover, please consider these authors for great books discussion groups, not just in February, but also every month of the year.

To punctuate their support of Black History Month, Questia is offering a reference work about each author below completely free for a month. See the link after each description.

The Ten Most-Read African-American Authors:

1. Langston Hughes was an American poet, novelist and playwright. He is best known for his work during the 1920s Harlem Renaissance. With famous poems such as “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” and Crotty fave, “Let America Be America Again,” Hughes proudly depicted the lives of poor blacks through the invention of what was called “jazz poetry.” Factoid: my Monk Media client, jazz label Motema Records, was formerly located inside Harlem’s Langston Hughes House. Free reference work: [Arnold Rampersad, ed. The Collected Works of Langston Hughes. Donald B. Gibson, Author.]

2. Richard Wright authored what were considered “controversial” novels in his time, including Crotty fave Native Son. In 1945, Wright penned the best-seller Black Boy, a seminal portrayal of one black man’s search for self-actualization in a racist society. It paved the way for other successful black writers. Free Reference Work: [“Shouting Curses”: the politics of “bad” language in Richard Wright’s ‘Black Boy.’ Jennifer H. Poulos, Author.]

3. Toni Morrison is a Nobel Prize and Pulitzer Prize-winning American novelist. She is celebrated for novels with epic themes and richly detailed characters, such as in The Bluest EyeSong of Solomon and Beloved. Though, for better or worse, Ms. Morrison is best known for her memorable, though misunderstood, quote, “Bill Clinton is our first black president.” Free Reference Work:  [Toni Morrison’s World of Fiction. Karen Carmean, Author.]

4. Zora Neale Hurston was an American folklorist, anthropologist, and author of four novels and over fifty short stories, plays and essays. Her novel Their Eyes Were Watching God was written during her fieldwork in Haiti with the Guggenheim Foundation, which provides grants to professionals in the creative arts. Free Reference Work: [Zora Neale Hurston and a History of Southern Life. Lori Robison, Author.]

5. Frederick Douglass was a strong public speaker and, after escaping from slavery, prominent leader in the abolitionist movement. Douglass also authored several compelling autobiographies that detailed his experiences in slavery. He served as a striking counter-example to slaveholders’ claims that blacks did not have the intellectual capacity to function as free and independent citizens. Free Reference Work: [Life and Times of Frederick Douglass: His Early Life as a Slave, His Escape from Bondage, and His Complete History. Frederick Douglass, Author.]

6. Alice Walker is an author and activist, best known for the critically acclaimed novel The Color Purple, for which she was awarded a Pulitzer Prize. It was turned into a successful Steven Spielberg film co-starringOprah Winfrey, and later into an excellent Broadway musical. Walker was involved in the Civil Rights movement and participated in the 1963 March on Washington. Free reference work: [Alice Walker: ‘Color Purple’ Author Confronts Her Critics and Talks about Her Provocative New Book. Charles Whitaker, Author.]

7. W.E.B. Du Bois was the first African-American to earn a doctorate from Harvard. He was a member of the early 20th century African-American intellectual elite and helped increase black political representation. He was a co-founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and served as editor for its magazine, The Crisis, to which he contributed many essays. Free reference work: [The Souls of W.E.B. Du Bois: New Essays and Reflections. Lawrence A. Burnley, Author.]

8. Ralph Ellison was a literary critic, scholar and writer. He wrote Shadow and Act, a collection of political, social and critical essays. He served as a professor at Rutgers University and Yale University. In addition, he received a National Book Award in 1953 for his book Invisible Man, which was chosen in 1998 by the Modern Library Association as one of the top 100 Best English-language Novels of the 20th CenturyInvisible Man ranked 19th, ahead of Richard Wright’s Native Son at 20th. Free Reference Work: [Heroism and the Black Intellectual- Ralph Ellison, Politics, and Afro-American Intellectual Life. Jeffrey Gaffio Watts, Author.]

9. August Wilson is an American playwright best known for The Pittsburgh Cycle (often referred to as his “Century Cycle”), which consists of ten plays set in different decades highlighting the black experience throughout the 20th century. Free Reference Work: [Raising the Curtain Again. Phil W. Petrie, Author.]

10. James Baldwin was a novelist, poet and essayist. He explored the unspoken intricacies of racial, sexual and class distinctions in Western societies throughout 20th century America. His novel, Go Tell It On the Mountain, ranked 39th on the MLA list. Free Reference Work: [Contemporary African American Novelists: A Bio-Bibliographical Critical Sourcebook. Emmanuel S. Nelson, Editor.]

Let me know what you think in the Comments area below. Moreover, feel free to track me on Twitter, friend me on Facebook, and follow me on Forbes to receive regular dispatches from the front lines of global education. I am also launching email newsletters on Education, Politics, Culture, and Travel. In addition to summaries and article links, Crotty Newsletter subscribers will receive breaking and market-making news before anyone else. My “Crotty on Education” newsletter, in particular, will include links to videos and podcasts by experts in the field, high-level research reports, plus the invaluable Crotty on Education Stock Index. You can subscribe to Crotty Newsletters here: www.jamescrotty.com/newsletter.html

Celebrating the ‘complete’ Martin Luther King Jr.; unfinished work and all l Dr. Blair L.M. Kelley

Celebrating the ‘complete’ Martin Luther King Jr.; unfinished work and all

by Blair L. M. Kelley

Blair L. M. Kelley is an associate professor at North Carolina State University. Follow her on Twitter at @ProfBLMKelley

My 9-year old daughter came home this week raving about her class and their discussion of Martin Luther King, Jr.

She declared that she loved learning about his life and that she was thankful to him because without King, no change would have been possible in America on the question of race. I am a historian of African-American history specializing in social movements, so I quickly moved to correct her. Of course change would have happened, even if King had never lived! I described to her other leaders. I reminded her that movements don’t function because of just one great man. I told her that King was not a perfect person, and that even he had come short of meeting all his goals. In the end, I even resorted to reminding her that I wrote a book on a movement that took place 35 years before King was even born.

Clearly my daughter didn’t care. She insisted that her school would not be integrated, and that her whole world would not have been the same without King’s leadership.

After thinking about it for a while, I realized that most people feel the same way about King that my daughter does. King has become the single greatest icon of the civil rights movement—his words are studied, his great marches are remembered, his name marks our boulevards; his shadow, now literally cast in stone, looms large on our national consciousness. He has become the benchmark for great leadership, so much so that nearly every leader that has emerged after him is compared to him, and found wanting.

As an icon, King is often thought of as flawless, so that we rarely reflect on his failures as a movement leader. Our collective memory of King only touches on the high points. The images we remember are the moments of his greatest triumphs as a leader: the 1955-56 Montgomery Bus Boycott, the 1963 March on Washington, the Birmingham Campaign that same year, and the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery. Each of these efforts resulted in positive change, clear victories in the courts or in the halls of Congress.

We tend not to remember the moments when King faltered or searched for the right direction. We don’t recall the indecision about what to do next after the success of the Montgomery Bus Boycott; the challenge of the 1966 Chicago Freedom Movement campaign, or his unfulfilled Poor People’s Campaign — cut short by his tragic assassination in 1968. These moments are forgotten when King is not remembered in his broader context.

A Death in the Family l Remembering Dr. John Hope Franklin on his birthday

A Death in the Family

by Kevin Alexander Gray
MARCH 30, 2009
Obits Magazine
From the moment word broke of John Hope Franklin’s passing, we started calling around, spreading the word as if a family member had just died.  Our griot had crossed over.  In West African societies, the griot kept and told the oral history of the village or tribe, and so helped the people know who they were. That was Franklin’s service to us.

John Hope FranklinFriends and family called him John Hope.  The rest of us called him Dr. Franklin. Generations of black activists, scholars, historians, politicians and those who appreciate history revere Dr. Franklin.  In the homes of most educated (or conscious) blacks you’ll find three standard items – the Bible, a picture of Martin Luther King, and a copy of Dr. Franklin’s seminal work, From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African-Americans.

Anyone who takes an African American history course in high school or college is usually required to have Franklin’s book.  Certainly there are whites who have a copy or have read some of his work.  But I’d be willing to bet that a significant number of black students who bought the book in college still have it.  I’ve had mine since the ’70s.

Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Sr. called Franklin, “the preeminent voice and witness for America’s sojourn from slavery to freedom.”  He’s right, but doesn’t go far enough: Dr. Franklin was (and still is) our preeminent teacher.  Even today, his work reaches and affects millions.  For blacks, his work forms the the base of our knowledge of who we are.  That’s no small thing.

To me, Franklin was just as significant — if not more so — than Rosa Parks.  First of all, she and many others were educated or historically informed by Franklin’s work.  Second, he chronicled Parks’ deed (and many others) in the context of a broader struggle and a connected history for the rest of us.

He insisted that our story is greater than one person’s refusing to give up a seat on a bus to a white person.  He showed us that the struggle for rights didn’t happen just in Montgomery or Selma or Birmingham; it galvanized everyday folks across the country. Franklin often spoke of the “cult of personality” that diminished the contributions of so many people whose names we don’t celebrate. His job was to tell the whole story.

Because of Franklin, we know that the movement for change didn’t spring up when Martin Luther King appeared on the scene.  It started before Crispus Attucks and Cinque.  Franklin knew we’d need to know that.

The week before Franklin passed, a young actress tragically lost her life in a skiing accident.  In the days that followed countless stories recounted her life, and Broadway dimmed its lights in her honor.  On the day Franklin died, I was struck by the obligatory notice his death was given, particularly in the electronic media.

I’m not claiming his passing didn’t get national notice, although the Obama White House did little to mark the significance of the moment.  Most of the news reports gave Franklin his due in the allotted 2-5 minutes.  And for those really interested, of course, Franklin’s biography is widely available. I’m also not trying to diminish the pain felt by the actress’s family or the appropriateness of her tributes. She was 45 and he was 94. Yet the differing coverage of the two deaths proves the importance of Franklin’s work.  He told the stories that were told nowhere else.

John Hope Franklin, MarchingOne article I ran across on Franklin said: “He is perhaps best known to the public for his work on President Clinton’s 1997 task force on race. But his reputation as a scholar was made in 1947” and that From Slavery to Freedom was “still considered the definitive account of the black experience in America.”

Think about it: to cast working with Bill Clinton above writing “the definitive account of the black experience in America.”  It’s such small actions – not intended as slights perhaps – that place the black experience in the shadow of our relationship to whites.  What went unmentioned was that Franklin supported reparations over empty apologies, much to the establishment’s consternation.

As the adage goes, “History is written by the winners.”   Before From Slavery to Freedom, blacks were an appendage in the history book of “the winners,” cast all too often as “the losers.”  Black struggle, progress and lives were invisible until whites wanted to see them.  And even when the story of blacks were told by a white, too often it contained what whites thought blacks felt.

Franklin showed blacks to be winners, with their own history of fighting to overcome second-class status and the pain, struggle and glory that went with it.  In his work, our people told their own stories.

The nation owes a huge debt to John Hope Franklin.  Rest in peace, honored griot.


Obits Magazine  Homepage image by Simmie Cox

Kevin Alexander Gray is a civil rights activist and author based in Columbia, S.C. He is a former president of the state ACLU. He managed Reverend Jesse Jackson’s presidential campaign in South Carolina in 1988, and is the author of Waiting for Lightning to Strike: The Fundamentals of Black Politics and the forthcoming The Decline of Black Politics: From Malcolm X to Barack Obama. He is an OUR COMMON GROUND Voice. Read more of Gray on his blog, The New Liberator.  

Dr. John Hope Franklin transcended on March 25, 2009. He would have celebrated his