John Hope Franklin heard the nervous collective inhale of the white audience as he walked to the podium. They didn’t want to hear what he was about to say – but he had to do it anyway!
The Southern Historical Association (SHA) had never before invited a Black person to speak. But that’s not why he was there.
As a boy, he and his mother were removed from a train for sitting in the whites-only section. When he cried, his mother told him that should he believe in himself, he “won’t be crying; [he]’ll be defying!” From that moment, he resolved to challenge discrimination at every opportunity. But how?
By telling the truth! Black history was often hidden or ignored – he wouldn’t let that continue.
He gripped the podium with authority, remembering his father’s stories of resilience during the Tulsa Riots. He’d be resilient, too.
Franklin not only broke the SHA’s barrier, he went on to publish “From Slavery to Freedom: A History of Negro Americans,” became the first Black person to chair a history department, and later helped end segregation!
His work accurately documented Black participation in this country, proving white supremacist narratives false. Like Franklin, if we pursue the truth about our own history, we can empower ourselves with our rich stories – and challenge the racist system!