A Celebration of Life: A Historian for the History Books

Published: March 25, 2009

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- John Hope Franklin, a revered Duke University historian and scholar of life in the South and the African-American experience in the United States, died Wednesday. He was 94.

Duke spokesman David Jarmul said Franklin died of congestive heart failure at the university's hospital in Durham.

Born and raised in an all-black community in Oklahoma where he was often subjected to humiliating incidents of racism, he was later instrumental in bringing down the legal and historical validations of such a world.

As an author, his book ''From Slavery to Freedom'' was a landmark integration of black history into American history. As a scholar, his research helped Thurgood Marshall win Brown v. Board of Education, the 1954 case that outlawed the doctrine of ''separate but equal'' in the nation's public schools.

''It was evident how much the lawyers appreciated what the historians could offer,'' Franklin later wrote. ''For me, and I suspect the same was true for the others, it was exhilarating.''

Franklin broke numerous color barriers. He was the first black department chair at a predominantly white institution, Brooklyn College; the first black professor to hold an endowed chair at Duke University; and the first black president of the American Historical Association.

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