In memoriam, John Hope Franklin (1915-2009)

franklin-john-hope-rgb-webThe ties between the nation’s most distinguished historian and UNC Press go back a very long way. In 1943, UNC Press (which had already made something of a name for itself by its books by and about African Americans) published John Hope Franklin’s first book, The Free Negro in North Carolina, 1790-1860. It was a revision of his Harvard dissertation and hailed as a very important book in the field. Decades later he wrote a new introduction for the paperback edition, which was published in 1995 and is still in print.

He also helped UNC Press secure financial support from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation to publish books in African American studies. In the late 1990s, the Press established a series named for John Hope; it is ongoing (nearly 30 books to date), and many of those books have won important prizes. Significantly, the series is supported by a special endowment created around the time of his 90th birthday with gifts from academics, entertainers, captains of industry, professionals, and otherwise anonymous people — all united by their respect and admiration for John Hope Franklin.

While everyone who respects history and the power of the written word is the poorer for this enormous loss, we also can remain inspired by his brilliant scholarship and his exceptional courage and humanity. His influence has been profound and will continue to be felt for decades to come.

Kate Douglas Torrey
The University of North Carolina Press