A recent obituary caught my eye. John Hope Franklin, passed away on March 25th. Every major newspaper noted that he is the most pre-eminent historian and an Afro-American. His book "From Slavery to Freedom" published 60 years ago is even now considered as the best history of Blacks in USA. Franklin played a significant role in assisting then lawyer, later Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall in the landmark Brown Vs Board of Topeka case. That was the case which ended racial segregation in US schools, the movie "Seperate but Equal" starring Sidney Poitier is a wonderful one to watch. The NYT obituary had some very interesting notes.
"He often regarded his country like an exasperated relative, frustrated by racism's stubborn power, yet refusing to give up. ''I want to be out there on the firing line, helping, directing or doing something to try to make this a better world, a better place to live,'' Franklin told The Associated Press in 2005."
"The book ('From Slavery to Freedom') sold more than 3.5 million copies and remains required reading in college classrooms. It was based on research Franklin conducted in libraries and archives that didn't allow him to eat lunch or use the bathroom because he was black."
"Some of his greatest moments of triumph were marred by bigotry.
His joy at being offered the chair of the Brooklyn College history department in 1956 was tempered by his difficulty getting a loan to buy a house in a ''white'' neighborhood."
Franklin was awarded USA's highest civilian honor, the President's medal of Freedom, "When he was to receive the freedom medal, Franklin hosted a party for some friends at Washington's Cosmos Club, of which he had long been a member. A white woman walked up to him, handed him a slip of paper and demanded that he get her coat. He politely told the woman that any of the uniformed attendants, ''and they were all in uniform,'' would be happy to assist her."
Great strides have been made in US in the area of racial equality. Much remains to be done too. That said what I admire in both John Hope Franklin and MLK is the love they had for US, a country which had heaped unspeakable horrors on their race. They realised that injustice can be corrected within the parameters of law and did not believe in harboring "hatred unto eternity". MLK's historic speech "I Have a dream" is remarkable for "wanting" to make US a better place to live, wanting to make the country live up to its promise, all the while unflinchingly criticising the racial bigotry of the country.
On the other hand we have Jeremiah Wright and EVR who revelled in promoting hatred, ignoring any social progress as insufficient and cause for further hatred. What is worse, out of hatred they lunged to the hysterical side accusing erstwhile oppressors of imaginary heinous crimes. They abrogate any responsiblities within their own communities. Bill Cosby, famously called 'TV's favorite dad, was berated as race traitor when he pointed out that blaming White's alone would not help Afro-Americans who need to address teen pregnancies, single parenthood, crime etc, all that are disproportionately high in their community.