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THOMPSON: John Hope Franklin

Johnhopefranklin As a child in the all-Black town of Rentiesville, John Hope Franklin witnessed his father’s venture into the Pogrom of 1921. Then it was called the "Tulsa Race War," and a Black lawyer seeking peace and justice for the victims of one of the great crimes in American history was putting his life at risk. When the "Tulsa Race Riot" finally was included in some history books, the death toll was reported to be 12, and the idea that Whites bombed "the Black Wall Street" from an airplane was dismissed as folklore, as were the reports of truckloads of Black bodies being sneaked out of town. Now we know that the death toll was 300 or more.

I am pleased to learn that Dr. Franklin became a vocal opponent of standardized testing and NCLB ( the law that which makes it even more difficult for poor children of color to be exposed to their history), but that issue should be left for another day.

We can not turnaround our high-poverty neighborhood schools without engaging in a conversation about race, class, and the damage inflicted by history on so many families. Franklin’s parents, for instance, would have never attended an opera because of their refusal to enter a segregated theater, but they left the decision up to their son. Franklin was honest about the psychic trade-off, enduring a humiliation of Jim Crow versus closing off a portion of his humanity by denying himself the music he loved. Since John Hope Franklin was able to frankly discuss the unmentionable, with such grace and civility, educators should be able to follow his inspirational lead. - John Thompson


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