John Hope Franklin

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In much the same way, I became involved with historical groups in other parts of the world. My ever-widening contacts in the United States presented me with opportunities to become associated with historians in Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, and South America. Each contact was instructive not only about the many things that peoples of the world have in common but also as to the intense interest other peoples have in problems and developments far removed from their own that would nevertheless assist them in understanding their own society. A remarkable and unforeseen result of my determination to pursue my profession wherever it led, be that into the halls of previously all-white academic associations or to the far-flung scholarly organizations scattered across the globe, were the contacts that released me from the straitjacket confinement of pursuing a career exclusively in historically black colleges and universities.

My life and my career have been fulfilled not merely by my own efforts but also by the thoughtful generosity of family, friends, and professional colleagues. I can only hope that they realize, as do I, how interdependent we all are and how much a more rewarding and fulfilling life is whenever we reach a level of understanding where we can fully appreciate the extent of our interrelationships with and our reliance on those who came before us, kept us company during our lives and will come after us.

Excerpted from Mirror to America by John Hope Franklin. Copyright © 2005 by John Hope Franklin. Publishes in November 2005 by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, LLC. All rights reserved.


By John Hope Franklin

· “This is one of the most historic moments-if not the most historic moment in the history of the country.” — Franklin commented after Barack Obama was elected the United States’ first black president in a video.

· “My challenge was to weave into the fabric of American history enough of the presence of blacks so that the story of the United States could be told adequately and fairly. That was terribly important.” — John Hope Franklin in 1997 at the 50th Anniversary of his definitive account of the black experience in America,”From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African-Americans.”

A FULL CENTURY has elapsed since Abraham Lincoln signed the final draft of the Emancipation Proclamation. A large number of people were participants in the drama that culminated in the signing: members of the Cabinet, members of Congress, Negroes, religious and civic leaders, military leaders and common soldiers, clerks and telegraph operators. Many of them have left accounts of their experiences and observations, but few if any were in a position to tell the full story. Thus, we have from the participants who left some record of their role mere fragments. And none of them was able to see the Emancipation Proclamation in its broader context and significance. Without the vantage point provided by time, they could hardly be expected to have the objectivity and perspective that the span of one hundred years provides. But without their accounts, the historian would be in no position to tell the story.