Helped reshape racial identity

John Hope Franklin, a prolific scholar of African-American history who profoundly influenced thinking about slavery and reconstruction, died on Wednesday in Durham, North Carolina, US, aged 94.

John Hope Franklin, a prolific scholar of African-American history who profoundly influenced thinking about slavery and reconstruction, died on Wednesday in Durham, North Carolina, US, aged 94.

During a career of scholarship, teaching and advocacy that spanned more than six decades, Franklin was deeply involved in the painful debates that helped reshape America's racial identity. He worked with Martin Luther King Jr, WEB du Bois, Thurgood Marshall and other giants of the 20th century.

He combined idealism about the historian's capacity for positively influencing policy with rigorous research and analysis of African-American and American history, producing the classic From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African-Americans. It sold more than three million copies. Franklin taught at Duke, Harvard and the University of Chicago.

He argued that historians had an important role in shaping policy, and no example was more personally salient than his experience with Marshall's team of lawyers as they worked to fight segregation in the landmark 1954 case Brown v Board of Education.

As he recalled in a 1974 lecture, "Using the findings of the historians, the lawyers argued that the history of segregation laws reveals that their main purpose was to organise the community upon the basis of a superior white and an inferior Negro caste."

Franklin was born on January 2 1915 in Rentiesville, Oklahoma to Buck Franklin, a lawyer, and Molly Parker Franklin, a teacher. His parents had moved to Rentiesville, an all-black town, after his father was not allowed to practice law in Louisiana.

Barred from admission to the University of Oklahoma, he attended historically black Fisk University in Nashville. He went on to Harvard where he received his Masters and Ph.D. He married Aurelia E Whittington and they had one son, John. - The New York Times

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