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AfriGeneas Books~Authors~Reviews Forum

Re: John Hope Franklin Book Review

Mirror To America- The Autobiography of John Hope Franklin
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review by George Geder

John Hope Franklin is one of our greatest African American scholar and historian. End of story; but not really. If I were to strike 'African American' from that statement I'd still come to that difinitive conclusion.

JHF, born 1915 in the all black town of Rentiesville, Oklahoma, is a walking timeline of all the major events of the 20th century and the first half-decade of the 21st. He has brushed shoulders with all the greats of our times, achieved nearly immeasurable heights in scholarship and research, received numerous accolades, awards and honors. He received his PhD from Harvard, became the first Black historian to assume full professorship at a white institution- Brooklyn College, and he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nations highest civilian honor (1995).

The book's subtitle is "The Twentieth-century fight for civil rights told in the first-person singular by a preeminent American historian". As a child, he and his mother were kicked off a train for having boarded on an 'for-whites-only' car. As an adult he too was told to take a seat in the back of the bus. JHF also had to deal with racism when it came to housing. On ocean liners to and from Europe they tried to seat his family in the back by the kitchen. AND GET THIS PEOPLE.... he had to experience racial segregation in the Southern archives and libraries, well after he made a name for himself. Imagine the state Department of Archives and History in Raleigh, NC giving him the KEYS to the manuscript collection thus avoiding the white assistants having to deliver manuscripts to John Hope Franklin! Guess who was happy and who was upset with that arrangement.

But this wasn't the book I was initially looking for. I wanted to learn more about his life as a historian, his methodologies, and what he tells his students. Where do family historians fit in with the telling of our stories from his perspective? What steps do we need to take; what procedures to follow? I wanted to learn how to be better at research. I think I already know the answer: Read John Hope Franklin's books, articles, and essays. End of story.

Mirror To America serves as an important backdrop to the history of the United States and one of it's greatest humanitarians. Required reading.

"Guided by the Ancestors"

Messages In This Thread

[Autobiography] John Hope Franklin Book Reviewed
Re: John Hope Franklin Book Review

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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