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Duke U. Observes 100th Birthday of John Hope Franklin


John Hope Franklin would have enjoyed the 100th birthday party that is being thrown in his honor at Duke University.

The month long celebration includes the heady type of logic the global scholar enjoyed sinking his teeth into until he passed at age 94 in Durham in 2009. 

 John Hope Franklin, a distinguished scholar who helped create and transform the field of African-American history, was the James B. Duke Professor Emeritus of History and Professor of Legal History in the Law School at Duke University. He is best known for his work From Slavery to Freedom, first published in 1947, and continually updated. More than three million copies have been sold. In 1995, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

A  few of the events that will honor Franklin include an Oct. 28  program on how slaves were handled as refugees after the Civil War. On Oct. 29, the university will present the world premiere of composer Frederic Rzewski’s Sometimes, commissioned in honor of Franklin and based on the traditional spiritual, Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child.  

Open to the public, most of the events are free including an Oct. 15 lecture by Historian Thomas C. Holt titled, John Hope Franklin and the Black Intellectuals of The Greatest Generation. Holt is professor of American and African-American history at the University of Chicago.

Meanwhile, the Fisk Jubilee Singers will join Rzewski when he presents his worldwide premiere of his composition, Sometimes on Oct. 29.

The celebration includes a three-day symposium that will be held Nov. 5-7: Global Slaveries- Impossible Freedoms: The Intellectual Legacies of John Hope Franklin.

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Keynote speakers, scholars and activists from around the country, to include Angela Davis, will assemble to reflect not only on Franklin’s 100th birthday, but also on other events, including the ratification of the 13th Amendment and the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

For a full schedule of speakers and to register for the symposium, visit

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