Son of Legendary Historian Encourages Appreciation of History

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Lincoln University, Pa, -- John W. Franklin, the senior manager of the newly-established, National Museum of African American History & Culture, encouraged students to not only appreciate the new museum’s efforts, but most importantly, become stewards of their own family’s history during a recent university convocation, October 27.

Franklin, the son of the great historian John Hope Franklin, spoke and showed students a power point presentation in the university’s International Cultural Center auditorium, which highlighted some of the museums prized acquisitions, including Nat Turner’s bible.  The talk serves an introduction prior to a university visit to the new museum on Wednesday, Nov. 9.

“I hope the students gain a sense of appreciation and scope of the planning (for the National Museum of African American History & Culture). It was a hundred years in the making and a dream of Civil War veterans,” he said. “ . . . My director, Lonnie Bunch, said his goal was to make the ancestors smile and I think we accomplished that.”

The museum, which was established by Act of Congress in 2003, following decades of efforts to promote and highlight the contributions of African Americans, is the only national museum devoted exclusively to the documentation of African American life, history, and culture. To date, the museum has collected more than 36,000 artifacts and nearly 100,000 individuals have become charter members, according to the museum’s website.

“We stand on the shoulders of our elders and the legacy of this great institution is linked to my family and the National Museum of African American History & Culture,” he said, explaining that he last visited Lincoln in 1961 at nine-years-old when his father and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. received honorary degrees from the university and Dr. King gave the commencement address. He also added that the nephew of Horace Mann Bond, Lincoln’s first African American president, was the museum’s architect.

The “three bronze basket” design of the museum, he said, was inspired by Nigerian sculptors and its outer shell or skin inspired by Charleston, South Carolina, blacksmiths.

Franklin, who said that it was every person’s responsibility to maintain their family’s history, encouraged students to sit down and talk with their grandparents to glean as much information as possible before it was too late.

He also explained that there were unlimited opportunities for students in museum-related professions beyond the traditional art, history, and anthropology fields, especially in STEM, law, finance and investment arenas.

“To be a conservator, (meaning) to conserve the artifacts, you have to have a Ph.D. in chemistry,” he said. “We also need people of color in digitation.  Much of it is not curatorial.  There’s much more to it.”


Article by Eric Christopher Webb, Director, Office of Communications & Public Relations. Photos by Maureen O. Stokes and provided by the National Museum of African American History & Culture.