thumbnail of North Carolina People; John Hope Franklin, Historian
Hide -
If this transcript has significant errors that should be corrected, let us know, so we can add it to FIX IT+
You're leaving France the night North Carolina PayPal's and Nancy Olden is Quail Ridge books and music in Raleigh. They're over here to meet and talk again with a dear and good friend John Hope Franklin. The reason for this visit among others is this book Mirror to America. When you doing your Christmas shopping but this high on the list it's a book that you really want to read. Soak into its marvelous Autobiography of a great American. Going to meet and talk with him in just a few seconds. Funding for North Carolina people is provided by walk over you helping North Carolina people realize their financial goals since eight hundred seventy nine. And by U.N. members. DEAR FRIEND It's good to see you again and John Hope out. I want to say have as I went
through this book having been privileged to be your friend for a long time. It kept coming back to me that in your childhood you had a a very blasted part of your life you had a wonderful mother and father and they gave they brought self-confidence and self assurance and self discipline. Am I reading it correctly. That's quite correct bill them. I I was one of the very fortunate ones I didn't I didn't choose them but if I hadn't had the opportunity to choose them I would have chosen my mother and my father they were absolutely unbelievable. They were they were devoted to each other which was a very wonderful example handed to me. They were also great parents. They're different people. My father was born in the Oklahoma territory in a place called Wild Horse. Yeah. And he grew up there.
My mother was born in West Tennessee but they met in college as indeed I would meet my own wife in college many years later. And they fell in love with each other and fell in love with their professor who whose name was John Hope and they decided that if they had a second second son they would name the South for John help. I'm blessed with the parents and I'm blessed with a good name too. Well just reading about you and your brother Buck and your sisters and all of those abusive experiences that happened with you are so unfair and so hard so hard for a young person to understand but I was always the thing will never yield. And you said live by segregation we live as who we are as we are individuals who have promise and
have the ability to do things that's that's what I felt you got from there. I did and it was very very important stood me in good stead so many times particularly after I was by the time I was six years old when my mother laid out to me what I should think about and what I should do about the problem of race when she said that you won't spend your time fretting crying as I was that we were put off the train. I just don't think you'll spend your time doing that. You spend your time proving to these people that you are as good as any of them. And that's what I want you to take you take away from this experience that's what I want you to take to spend your energy doing proving to everybody the Jews because they're not better but as good as and whenever I ran into some problem after that I didn't fret about it I didn't cry about it but I took it
as an opportunity to prove to people that I was good as they were and see these pages tell that story on that foundation. You had the experience of people like Ted courier and John I mean President Shepherd others it kept saying to you focus focus focus. Next step next step mother gave you that priceless gift even when she took you don't how to face danger. Then she got out of her as I said she would cut the sapling and make the straying the only concession we made to get through the industry was that she purchased a hook and the rest of it was her skill both as a as a as a as a fisher person and her skill as a as a designer and maker of the fishing tackle itself. I often
wondered as I said in the book what she would think of me now if I if I if she were to see me as I as she could seem innocent in the summer and fly fishing on the Madison River in Montana using a roll for here and there and catching a 20 inch rainbow trout you go. The could have been dinner for three of us in the red in red as well but which I now return to the fruits of the river and didn't even keep the picture in here of you in Alaska with that 31 pound salmon is really sad. Yeah I think it was when he dressed and fully armed I became a. They are devoted to fish a person from that point on and you know John Hope all of us when we were growing up out there was always a store somewhere. I judge Branson said was that in your life. Branson story was that in my life until I was 10 years so it was a wonderful
place. I thought it was I would have I could have compared it to anything in the York City at the time. It's just a small store but they had wonderful things in them like the big wheel of cheese. Yeah. And the smallest barrel of pickle. Yeah and the box of cookies they grabbed at this big round cookers and that was just assume a mono that was as much as you would ever want in life and seeing the way that you were describing my grandfather's country store that's why it stuck with me so if you wrote something in here at that time although in doing these years your father was away because he was reestablishing practicing. I found this very moving on Thursday December 10 19 25. We flagged down the K-T going north. That was the train that loaded our trucks and suitcases and boxes and within minutes the whistle sounded and the physical place of my birth was gone forever
thereafter to remain a conjuration of precious memories. Indeed too precious to be reduced to material things. It stuck with you every day of your lives right. That's all I'm to tell so on that I don't want to change from rent is told so the rent is real is a village that didn't have more than 100 or so people and it was it was my world here until I was 10 years ago. Then all the sudden I was thrown into this huge what I thought was a huge metropolis in Tulsa Oklahoma. And I grew up from 10 to 16 in Tulsa Tulsa has was still recovering from the race riot of 1921 when I we when we move there in 1925 and the thing that struck me was on the one hand these magnificent buildings that are taller than I've ever dreamed. And on the other
hand these half finished churches and how homes in the black part of town that were built on the on the ruins of the of the riot of nineteen twenty one and I don't think 25 was it was still just building just building. But that was the it was the center of my life for the next six years. You followed and loved and admired and adored your father at one time you you were telling him you will be a lawyer and come home and practice law with him and then you got into all kinds of these these in a ferret's as in teaching you to be a teacher so to speak. But in Tulsa leading man and I school play you get into theater 2.0. Oh yeah that's right. I was an actor at 14 and 15 and I should never forget two things.
The name of the play was dangerous waters and the name of my leading lady was Esther breaking and it went on to be a nurse many years later and that the man who taught us English and class and taught us theatre absque Mr. Horace who was was was was just a remarkable man a person that we admired and wanted to emulate because his English was beautiful and he could coach us in the in the actions and activities related to theatrical work. And I something like that. But of course by going into into theater it was was it was a sign and indication that we were encouraged to try anything and everything you are to bring out whatever talents we had in whatever way we could.
And there I was. Playing the leading role in dangerous waters playing the leading role in the LA parada later and and debating and acting and doing all the things that tended to bring out whatever talents I might have had these were the formative years of John Hope Franklin way and your love for music was in there too. That's right. One of the great scenes in this story is when your father hand you the manuscript to make a speech for the first time you ever got up on your feet like that in an audience like that this and it was a moving experience for you. It was Emancipation Day one hundred twenty seven I think it was and then my father had to go away and he had already prepared the speech and he simply said to me he said I want you to go and deliver the speech. And I went to this to Western Methodist Church
on the Emancipation Day. Nineteen twenty seven and read the speech. Well I I didn't know any better than to read you the best I could and you know and people it was something shot that I I was just I'm just going to be 12 the next day and then I was delivering a speech and my father had written and with the diction and the emphasis and so forth. I thought it ought to have and when I when I finished. People are on their feet cheering and I wasn't. I didn't know that it deserves that but there was a combination of admiring my father for having entrusted this performance to me and admiring me for having the bravery and nerve temerity or
disposition to do that and go through with it. And so there they were on their feet and cheering that I didn't know what was what it was why it was necessary to cheer. I just read a speech you see. If mother and father and sister don't college for all of you. Oh it was over. Fisk was your next stop. That's right. Two great things happened to you there among many great things. First it was meeting a radio. Second was a history teacher you say this man really did have an influence over your life. How did that happen. Oh well there was a course in my freshman year at Fisk called contemporary civilization and it was a sort of a parade of all of the people in the social sciences all the professors and some of the social sciences and some recent humanities who came through where they give each one would give a couple actress during the weekend and pass on
this young white man third of Korea from New England who would who came into the room and the first place I was impressed with his youth he was young. Secondly with the enormous energy of which he just simply exuded. Thirdly he was winging it. Keola time and I believe it was today that was the 580 Kappa key but I don't know what it was it's and I thought it's a sort of a swing you know and someone and. But the thing that impressed me most was that he brought history alive the way I had never seen it brought alive you know and in in high school he recited in paragraphs of the book and that sort of thing. But he took wars and pestilences and political developments and
economic drove us to a to a height of it made it all very exciting. If he was talking about Europe as one thing is all about Latin America's another was talk of the ages was another but he seemed to know all about everything all over the world and I was very much excited and pleased and delighted and thrilled that this history could come alive like this and said What is this I never thought you know history could be like this. And I said it I think I'd better have some more of that. And so I want to I've read it in my second year to take a course with him. And then he could. I caught his attention and he began to befriend me and as he did I realize that this was something I was interested in on a permanent basis and I was delighted to say to him that I was thinking about majoring in history and he
was delighted that I was thinking about it. Meanwhile I had thought that I wanted to be a lawyer to succeed my to to to succeed in law school and go back and work with my father. You see I had the notion that my father was a good lawyer but not a good businessman. And that's why we were so poor I thought that he didn't know how to collect the money. He didn't know how to organize the economic part of the firm I would do that. And so I was going to be a lawyer and then that as I decided not to be a lawyer I felt that I was betraying him. And so it was on one occasion I was home and after I had declared my major in history I said to my father I said I hope you're not to disappoint of it. I'm not going to be a lawyer.
And he said to me very frankly his lead was your idea in the first place is that I never suggested you should be a lawyer and indeed whatever you're going to be I all I want you to do is to be good and you best do the best that you can. And that's that's all I ask for you whether you're going to be a lawyer or historian or whatever and that gave me a sense of relief and I went on and pursued my field even more in a general way than I had before. Just courier really determined and with you set you on the course where you've got your Ph.D. at Harvard ultimately with a master's degree before then he he stayed at you so to speak to make sure. Oh yeah he lived out that focus. Yes when we were when I finished college and I finished high school I'm sorry. I one of the first and that was the four years when I finished college I knew that I want to be a store and I would and I knew that I wanted to go to
Harvard because he had told me that's where I should go. And that's the only place I applied I don't think we do that now we play a half dozen places in the whole hood lottery and something will get us into one but it was only one place he wanted me to go and that was Harvard where he had gone and I did not realize then but he was projecting me protect himself through me. He wanted me to do what he had done and what he could not do because he did not have the discipline to really pursue the scholarship and degrees and that sort of thing and I think that's one of the reasons why. At in the summer 1935 when when we lost our home this is the pit of the depression Bill. It has nothing out there and we lost our home we didn't have the money. And you call me and ask me at the end of
the summer he said How are you doing are you do you have any money. I said no he said Well can you get your fare from Tulsa to Nashville. And I said Well I think so. I won although I wasn't absolutely certain I could do that but I did. I told my mother and my father that this was this might be an opportunity that he had something he was planning for me. And so I took the train and went to Nashville and September 19 and 35 he met me at train station and put me up that night in that little cottage of his and the next morning after breakfast he would he said would you wait here I'm going downtown. He came back in about an hour or so. He had $500 cash and he put it in my
hand and he said Money won't keep you out of Harvard. I've been admitted to having the money will not keep you out of it. And I thanked him as best I could but I felt that I could not thank him enough. This was a most remarkable demonstration of confidence and affection love everything else that I could say you could think of and he put me on the train that night and I went to Boston and then to there to Cambridge and Vegeta the next day. I wanted to ask you these questions about your earlier years because most people don't know that it's all in this wonderful book. But I've taken the time because I wanted to know who you really are. Are you in the audience and the great humanity that lives in your heart. So John Hope which we all know would appreciate so much but. After the graduation from Harvard you set out on a career that has truly
been a distinguished one. You're the preeminent American historian. You've lectured all over the world you've been in Cambridge as a professor there the presidents of the United States have called upon you. But in this book there are lots of little vignettes like the man who lived above you at Harvard who came down one day and ask you to help him with a letter. Yes John Morton he was a man from the Eastern Shore of Virginia. This was a rooming house where Harvard students lived African-Americans to whites. Their landlord was black. The two Harvard students there were became very dear friends of mine. And then there was on the third floor this man who didn't have much to say to us didn't get in the SO said with us.
He just lived up there and I was uncertain who he was or what he was but we was we always read each other cordially as we saw each other. And then one day there was a night tap on my door and I went to the door and it was working. We lived upstairs. He was a middle aged man I would say in his late 40s or 50s. And I assumed and I think this assumption is correct that he had served in World War One. He was not in the best of health and I don't know he didn't work. I think he lived off all military pension that's my assumption. But one day we need tapped on my door and I'm going to tour he said. He said I received a letter today and the person didn't write it very well and I having trouble reading it I want if you help me read it
and I suggest come in. You came in and sat down in my room and I looked at the letter and it was then that I knew that this man could not read because the letter was not it was not the greatest literary composition but there was nothing wrong with your magical and so forth and I said to myself This man cannot read. And I then began to simulate the same kind of difficulty he was having as its pretty pretty rough here and I acted like I couldn't read it very well. But I got through it. Because it was is the rig I got through it and then I said to him I said were you thanking me and about to meet both of you when we get together every day and you can brush up on your English so you can read your mail without any help.
He said But you were too busy. I said no I'm not I'm not that busy. I was I had only three jobs that time table I was washing dishes at the piratical taking in typing and I was doing some work for a man whose writing is docked at the station. I said no I'm not too busy. I said you come down here every day at 5 o'clock and we'll we'll we'll go through this so we'll do some reading. He was so excited and grateful. And that's what we did and we did it every day for the next 18 months. That's why President Clinton wrote on the dust jacket of this book. Has a remarkable sense of humanity. That's what you were showing there. The giving of yourself to a man who was totally divine without and that was a magnificent give and stayed with him all of his life. I did 25 minutes run by so fast with what I want. This has been so stimulating and interesting how you feel about our country today. In about 60 seconds if you
can do so from your work with the president's initiative for race. Well you know that in my expert My experience with initiative on race was on the one hand there edifying that I was challenged to respond to a president who wanted to do something in this area not to solve the race problem and so many people felt he was trying to do but at least start human and. And a fine discussion and national dialogue of race and national dialogue and we felt that if people confront of the problem looked at it talked about it. They would really be willing to make some resolutions that would lead to some solving of some of the problem for the regarding race. I'm sorry. The clock is called us John Hope but that's exactly what you set out to do to get this nation to talking right. Ladies and gentlemen here it is America to
America it's a book you want to read and you want your family to read because it's a great history about a great American who's blessed North Carolina with his presence and yours don't next week then. Good night. Funding for North Carolina people is provided by walk over you helping North Carolina people realize their financial goals since beat hundred seventy nine and by UN CTV members.
North Carolina People
John Hope Franklin, Historian
Contributing Organization
UNC-TV (Research Triangle Park, North Carolina)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/129-nc5s756v3m).
Series Description
North Carolina People is a talk show hosted by William Friday. Each episode features an in-depth conversation with a person from or important to North Carolina.
Talk Show
Media type
Moving Image
Embed Code
Copy and paste this HTML to include AAPB content on your blog or webpage.
Host: Friday, William
AAPB Contributor Holdings
Identifier: 4NCP3523YY (unknown)
Format: fmt/200
Generation: Dub
Duration: 00:30:00;00
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “North Carolina People; John Hope Franklin, Historian,” UNC-TV, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed February 26, 2024,
MLA: “North Carolina People; John Hope Franklin, Historian.” UNC-TV, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. February 26, 2024. <>.
APA: North Carolina People; John Hope Franklin, Historian. Boston, MA: UNC-TV, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from