UChicago honors historian John Hope Franklin with new lecture series

Nation’s leading scholars to discuss history of slavery during Oct. 2-4 talks

Prof. John Hope Franklin was one of the nation’s leading historians, a towering figure who helped define the field of African American history. This fall, the pioneering University of Chicago scholar will be recognized with an eponymous lecture series that furthers the intellectual traditions he once led.

On Oct. 2-4, UChicago’s Department of History will launch the John Hope Franklin Lectures, honoring the late faculty member whose legacy continues to resonate through modern scholarship. Debuting as a three-day event titled “Slavery and its Afterlives,” the lectures will shine a light on the work of Franklin and other scholars on the history of slavery and the African diaspora. The series is co-sponsored by the Division of the Social Sciences and the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture.

Among those organizing the event is Prof. Jonathan Levy, who called it part of an ongoing revitalization of such research at UChicago—which has been home to preeminent scholars of slavery, emancipation and their ensuing impacts. He anticipates the John Hope Franklin Lectures becoming an annual event, bringing together scholars from throughout the world.

“This field of study was built through a lot of hard-fought struggles by people like John Hope Franklin,” said Levy, professor in the Department of History and the John U. Nef Committee on Social Thought. “The research is important, and we are proud to be investing in it.”

Born in 1915, Franklin is perhaps best known for the groundbreaking book From Slavery to Freedom: A History of Negro Americans, which has been continuously updated and used in history courses since its publication in 1947.

“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,” Franklin said in 1997, during a celebration of the book’s 50th anniversary. “That was terribly important.”

Franklin served on the UChicago faculty from 1964-82. He was the first African American to chair a history department at a majority white institution—taking that post at Brooklyn College in 1956—as well as the first to serve as president of both the American Historical Association and the Organization of American Historians. He also taught at a number of historically black colleges and universities, including Fisk University and Howard University. In 1995, Bill Clinton awarded Franklin the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

Free and open to the public, the John Hope Franklin Lectures will include lectures and a panel discussion with several prominent scholars. New York University’s Jennifer Morgan will discuss her research on the intersections of race and gender, while Harvard University’s Vincent Brown will present a lecture on his book Tacky’s Revolt: The Story of an Atlantic Slave War.

The three-day series will conclude with a roundtable moderated by Asst. Prof. Destin Jenkins. In addition to Morgan and Brown, the panel will feature a trio of UChicago historians: Assoc. Prof. Emerita Julie Saville, Assoc. Prof. Adam Green and Prof. Brodwyn Fischer. Sarah Jessica Johnson, a provost’s postdoctoral fellow in English, also will participate.

Click here to see the full event schedule.

—Story adapted from an article on the Division of the Social Sciences website.