Commentary by Jerri Lange
In Remembrance: John Hope Franklin
July 19, 2010
Murrow, McLuhan, and Angelou
June 9, 2010


Click here to view the broadcast of our interview with Jerri about her 2009 book, Jerri: A Black Woman's Life in the Media.

John Hope FranklinIn Remembrance
July 19, 2010

John Hope Franklin, scholar and author of African American history, slipped quietly out of this tumultuous world into his final destination—Peace.

He died on March 25, 2009, at the age of 94. He led a long and productive life.

As The New York Times stated in an article on March 27, 2009:

Even in a country where the far-fetched, for better and for worse, so often becomes reality, few historians achieved the stature, both as scholars and as moral figures—and as combinations of the two—that Dr. Franklin did. When he died, at the age of 94, an American epoch seemed to vanish with him.
Dr. Franklin was first and foremost a major historian, whose landmark book, “From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African-Americans,” first published in 1947, was a comprehensive survey that sold more than three million copies. The book also permanently altered the ways in which the American narrative was studied.
“What distinguishes his history or historiography is that he, like few other historians, wrote a book that transformed the way we understand a major social phenomenon,” said David Levering Lewis, the New York University historian, who like Dr. Franklin studied under Theodore Currier at Fisk University in Nashville.
“When you think of ‘From Slavery to Freedom,’ there’s before and there’s after, there’s the world before and then we have a basic paradigm shift,” he said. “Before him you had a field of study that had been feeble and marginalized, full of a pretty brutal discounting of the impact of people of color. And he moved it into the main American narrative. It empowered a whole new field of study.”

A tall, elegant man, his hobby was growing orchids at his home in Durham, North Carolina. He later joined the March on Selma, led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. Franklin was a "class act" all the way to the end of his life. He held many prominent positions. After graduating from Fisk University, he received his doctorate from Harvard, was chairman of the history departments at Brooklyn College and the University of Chicago, and became the first Black professor to hold an endowed chair at Duke University. His illustrious career was capped when he received the nation's highest civilian honor, the Medal of Freedom, awarded to him by President Bill Clinton in 1995.

In one of his last interviews, with the Independent Weekly when he was 93 years of age, he spoke about the question of an apology for slavery. He noted that the price we pay for silence and forgetting our past is the "persistence of lies, denial of guilt and denial of justice.”

“No one knows the price that I've paid for what I've gotten out of this world and this life," he said. "My efforts represented sacrifices untold, indescribable. They don't know what my mother went through to see that I had opportunities, and even the fundamentals such as food and clothing and so forth. They don't know what my grandfather, on my father's side, paid in terms of taxes so that white young men could to the University of Oklahoma, where my own father could not go.

"And I don't see any reason why I should get over that kind of exploitation of my immediate family—my father, my grandfather, my mother, and so forth. I see no reason I should get over it. I see every reason why there should be compensation, apologies, particularly in the hypocrisy it's represented, in their saying on the one hand that all men are created equal, and on the other hand, them saying if they're created equal, some are more equal than others."

So, when you think of John Hope Franklin, think of his words in that last interview, then recall the words of Welsh poet Dylan Thomas:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light...

Dr. John Hope Franklin chaired the Scholarly Advisory Committee of the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of African American History and Culture, due to open in 2015 on the National Mall in Washington, DC. You can learn more about African American history by visiting the Museum's website at

Murrow, McLuhan, and Angelou
June 9, 2010

We hope to bring back the integrity of Edward R. Murrow, the message of Marshall McLuhan, and the wisdom of Maya Angelou.

It was Murrow who broadcast from London, during World War II, as bombs were being dropped all over that great city. His bravery and courage were evident as he stood high atop buildings and told America and the world what was happening in Europe. When he returned to the United States, his next battle was to bring down the man terrorizing Americans in their own country - Sen. Joseph McCarthy.

Marshall McLuhan was the broadcast guru who told us not to ask what the message of the media is, because the "Media IS the message."

While the struggle for Civil Rights played out all over this country, Maya Angelou told the world, "I know why the caged bird sings". That book helped all of us understand why — standing amidst the death and destruction of their beautiful country — the people of Haiti sang!

Back in 1970, I gave a speech to 400 broadcasters, asking why we destroy Nature as we dig for natural resources — wondering "what kind of man destroys the things that give him life and creates a crisis which threatens our very existence as a species on this planet?"

As we look in disbelief at the oil bulging up from the bottom of the ocean in the Gulf of Mexico, endangering islands, white sand beaches, and wildlife in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, we must ask ourselves how have we come to this? Is it a metaphor of what we have become?

We live in the Information Age, where questions and answers are at our fingertips — if we have the courage to inform and educate the public — so that we can know the risks of abusing Nature.

This Planet was once a Paradise. We can begin again to embark on the journey to return to that peaceful place. Our goal here at is to help take us there.