60 years ago today: Front-page headline in the New York Times: “Negro Educator Chosen to Head Department at Brooklyn College. Howard University Professor Will be First of Race to Hold That Rank Here.”
John Hope Franklin‘s appointment marks the first time an African-American has been appointed chairman of any department at a traditionally white institution.
According to the Times, “[Franklin’s] greatest research ambition is… an explanation of the South’s inclination to belligerency and emotionalism.”
In 1982 Franklin will return to North Carolina, where he authored the classic “From Slavery to Freedom” and taught at St. Augustine’s College and North Carolina College for Negroes, to become James B. Duke professor of history at Duke University.
“After the enormous success of [“The Birth of a Nation”], Thomas Dixon, who’d already made several fortunes on his writing and speaking, turned movie producer and kept making money. But he lost everything in the economic crash of 1929, and in the 1930s spent his waning years working as a clerk of court in Raleigh. [John Hope] Franklin, then doing research for his first book, would see him in front of the courthouse and engage him in pleasant conversations that he recalled to me fondly — an image of how Southern cordiality can make intimates of even the starkest intellectual opponents….”
— From “Why No One Is Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the Feature Film” by Godfrey Cheshire at Vulture (Feb. 6)
Cheshire, a Raleigh-born film critic, interviewed Franklin for his 2007 documentary “Moving Midway.”