John Hope Franklin, who was a pioneer in chronicling African-American history and worked on the nation’s landmark school desegregation case, died March 24 in Durham, N.C., of congestive heart failure. He was 94.
In 1947, the historian wrote From Slavery to Freedom, which is considered a seminal text on the black experience in the United States. As a professor at Howard University in the 1950s, he worked with the civil right lawyer Thurgood Marshall on the legal brief that helped lead to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 decision striking down school segregation in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka.
Mr. Franklin wrote more than a dozen books about the history of blacks in America, race relations, and the South. His work was instrumental in expanding the scope of American history lessons to include the contributions of blacks, according to John B. Diamond, an associate professor of education at Harvard University.
“Clearly, he had a powerful influence on the field, making African-American history and American history one,” Mr. Diamond said.
“Throughout his life, Mr. Franklin was dedicated to education and what it would do for generations succeeding his own,” said Charles V. Willie, a professor emeritus of education at Harvard who worked with Mr. Franklin on one of his books.
Mr. Franklin himself 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.
A version of this article appeared in the April 01, 2009 edition of Education Week