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‘His Genius Could Not Be Denied’

In Memoriam: Dr. John Hope Franklin (1915-2009)

‘His Genius Could Not Be Denied’

 

By Hilary Hurd Anyaso

 

“Warm, generous, compassionate, a giant among American historians,” is how one University of Chicago colleague of Dr. John Hope Franklin remembers him.

 

Dr. Neil Harris, the Preston and Sterling Morton Professor Emeritus at UChicago, where Franklin chaired the history department, said in a statement, “John Hope enjoyed people, and people enjoyed John Hope. Everything he did, from his cooking to his orchid growing, was extraordinary. Lucky indeed it was to know him and be put in touch with the energies and spirit of a great man.”

 

Ailing for some time, Franklin, the James B. Duke Professor Emeritus of History at Duke University, died yesterday of congestive heart failure at the age of 94 in Durham, N.C.

 

Called “a towering historian” by Duke University President Richard Brodhead, Franklin’s scholarship influenced countless scholars and students, and his humble, unassuming nature touched everyone he came in contact with.

 

“If you’re very fortunate, you get a chance to meet and get to know a person like Dr. Franklin. I always heard that the truly great people are the most approachable and nice; he exemplified that,” says Frank Matthews, co-founder of Diverse: Issues In Higher Education magazine, who first met Franklin 25 years ago. “The amount of information that he accumulated and retained was truly astounding. His genius could not be denied.”

 

So impressed with Franklin’s accomplishments as well as his character, Cox, Matthews and Associates, which publishes Diverse, established the John Hope Franklin Awards in 2004 to honor those who have demonstrated the highest commitment to access and excellence in American education. Recipients have included Dr. Johnnetta Cole, Maya Angelou and fellow historian Dr. David Levering-Lewis.

 

“I can’t think of another person in the academy who was more deserving of having an award named after them than John Hope Franklin,” says Matthews. “He documented our history in a way that I don’t think can ever be replicated.”

 

Franklin’s scholarship is said to have increased the nation’s understanding and knowledge of African-Americans in its history. A prolific writer, Franklin’s numerous publications include the best-seller From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African-Americans, The Emancipation Proclamation, The Militant South and most recently Mirror to America, which chronicles his life.

 

“His book, From Slavery to Freedom, remains a vital classic and primer as an introduction to African-American history,” says Dr. Peniel Joseph, associate professor of Africana Studies at Brandeis University. “His large corpus of scholarship and civic activism promoting diversity in the academy leaves a monumental legacy for other scholars to follow. Dr. Franklin was that rare combination of exemplary scholar and engaged citizen who sought to promote history and multiculturalism to a larger public.”

 

A native of Oklahoma, Franklin earned his bachelor’s degree at Fisk University, where he would meet his wife Aurelia. He would go on to earn a master’s and doctorate in history from Harvard University. Franklin taught at a number of institutions, including Fisk, St. Augustine’s College, North Carolina Central University, and Howard University. In 1956 he went to Brooklyn College where he would become the first Black historian to assume full professorship at a traditionally White institution. He also served as chairman of the Department of History. In 1964, he joined the faculty of the University of Chicago, serving as chairman of the Department of History from 1967 to 1970. At Chicago, he was the John Matthews Manly Distinguished Service Professor from 1969 to 1982, when he became Professor Emeritus.

 

Franklin had long been a witness to and active participant in many historic events. From assisting Thurgood Marshall in his preparation for arguing Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 to heading former President Bill Clinton’s Initiative on Race in 1997, Franklin was quoted in Emerge magazine in 1994 as saying, “I think knowing one’s history leads one to act in a more enlightened fashion. I can not imagine how knowing one’s history would not urge one to be an activist.”


In 2006, USA Today quoted Franklin expressing disappointment that to date there was no national monument to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. But Diverse’s Matthews says he’s glad Franklin lived long enough to see the election of the new president. During an interview with Duke University television last fall, Franklin said Barack Obama’s election was “one of the most, if not the most, historic moment in this country’s history.” He said he knew “it would come sooner or later.”

 

Franklin’s contributions have been acknowledged with numerous awards and more than 130 honorary degrees. He treasured his students and the role of teacher.

 

Dr. Yohuru Williams, a history professor at Fairfield University and vice president for History Education at the American Institute for History Education, had the opportunity to meet Franklin in 1994 for the taping of a PBS special in his honor.

 

“He sat around with the mixed group of graduate and undergraduate students after the taping for nearly an hour answering questions and offering suggestions on our work,” recalls Williams. “He was a master teacher and his presence, guidance and scholarship will sorely be missed.”

 

To pay tribute, Duke University has created a Web page in Franklin’s honor. Visit www.duke.edu/johnhopefranklin

 

I Am Barack Obama

 

"We are all Barack Obama."

Dr. Pamela Reed attended a recent Barack Obama in Richmond, Va.

A funny thing happened the other day.  I attended a Barack Obama rally, one of thousands of Virginians who braved the cold and stood in line outside the Richmond Coliseum, most of whom were no doubt as aware as I of the historic significance of the moment. While waiting to gain entry—when I wasn’t chatting with familiar strangers—I engaged in one of my favorite pastimes:  people watching. It was a veritable sea of diversity:  Whites, Blacks, Latinos, Native Americans, Asians, gay, straight, physically-impaired, men, women, and children.  It was splendiferously representative of the tapestry that is America.

And get this. It was extraordinarily peaceful and orderly, in stark juxtaposition to recent images from John McCain and Sarah Palin rallies. There were no angry, hateful people ranting about socialists, communists, Marxists, Muslims, Jeremiah Wright, or Bill Ayers. No one expressed inexplicable fear of a President Obama. To the contrary, everywhere I turned, there were smiles from highly motivated and inspired Americans of all hues. It was a scene reminiscent of New Year’s Eve, or some other celebratory rite of passage, an occasion of clear demarcation and great anticipation. There was in the air the feeling that our long national nightmare could soon be over.

 

I have literally thought of little else since, all the while mentally composing this piece. 

Indeed, the memory was still fresh in my mind the following morning when I attended the Fall Festival at my daughter’s very culturally diverse preschool. Not until then, when I saw the costume of little Jermaine, one of her classmates, did all the images swirling in my mind truly come into focus.

He wasn’t dressed in a superhero’s cape and tights, or in some cute animal suit. His mother didn’t outfit him as a monster, a ghost or an athlete. No. He was dressed in slacks, a starched white shirt, and a tie. And he wore a two-sided badge around his neck. On one side held a picture of Obama and on the reverse was the following simple declaration: I am Barack Obama. 

Off-and-on, he also donned an Obama mask; however, in this writer’s view, the mask detracted from the ensemble. More precisely, it concealed his beautiful brown skin and the sparkle in his eyes. All of his classmates were drawn to him like a magnet. One little White boys, Sterling, even reached out and held the sign, as if in awe. I knew the moment I viewed the photograph of that exchange that this represented the heart of Obama’s “aloha spirit,” the idea that we are all, in the final analysis, one people. And that we must learn to fully coexist and work together, notwithstanding the race-baiting of many of those opposed to an Obama-led America.

This is the profundity that is Barack Obama. His candidacy represents the hope of a people, indeed of a nation—and the world community, which looks to America as a moral and existential compass—for better or worse. And it presents a clear choice for the people of America, between darkness and light. Betwixt night and day. And more importantly, the past and the future.

This explains the power of Jermaine’s costume, which embodies the possibility that a Barack Obama presidency would manifest. It is about the notion that anyone who works hard and is qualified, regardless of race, can truly be whatever he/she imagines—including President of the United States of America. That is what this election comes down to.

And it is by no means just the babes who are affected by this. Far from it. It is also adults of all ages, races and nationalities who may have given up on long-held dreams, even the Afro-South American politicians in Brazil who have literally changed their names to Barack Obama.

As well, it is this writer. Just observing Obama’s fierce and quiet determination—and uncommon courage—in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds and the unspeakable bigotry and hatred of some Americans—has even given this sometime scribe the confidence to pursue the writing career that I have secretly dreamed of since I was a young girl chopping cotton in the fields of segregated northeast Louisiana, at the tail-end of Jim Crow, during the mid- to late-1970s.  The would-be broadcast journalist who was once told by a close male relative that the profession to which I aspired was for slim, White women.

Thus, it is not just about the Jermaines of this world. Quite the contrary.

I, too, am Barack Obama.

You are Barack Obama. Joe the Plumber is Barack Obama. We are all Barack Obama. And, in my estimation, if the American people make the right choice on November 4, Mr. Obama will soon be Barack the President. As I live and breathe!

Dr. Reed is a diversity consultant and assistant professor of English and African-American literature at Virginia State University.

 

 

Increasing Minority Ph.D. Completion

From Today’s Edition

PBIs Make Gains in Washington
by Charles Dervarics
Apr 28, 2008, 20:31
 

After years of lobbying for more federal aid and visibility, predominantly Black colleges and universities   many of them located in northern cities are gaining a greater foothold in Washington.

 

These colleges, which enroll large numbers of Black students but are not historically Black institutions, will divide $15 million over two years through a new grant competition expected to be formally open for applications soon. Approved under the College Cost Reduction Act, the competitive grants can provide predominantly Black institutions, or PBIs, with a minimum grant of at least $250,000.

 

“We’ve got a foot in the door. That’s significant,” says Dr. Edison Jackson, president of Medgar Evers College in New York, who long has argued for aid to PBIs. With a Black enrollment of about 94 percent, Jackson’s college would qualify for the new funds.

 

Precise eligibility rules for the competition are still pending.

 

However, according to the Department of Education, eligible applicants would include those colleges and universities with an undergraduate enrollment that is “at least 40 percent Black American students.” As a comparison, institutions with a 25 percent Hispanic student population are designated Hispanic-serving institutions.

 

Under the program, colleges and universities are to use funds for one of the following:

 

   Science, technology, engineering or

   mathematics (STEM) activities;

   Health education;

   Internationalization or globalization;

   Teacher preparation; or

   Improving educational outcomes of

    Black males.

 

On its Web site, the education department says it expects to make about 25 grants of $600,000 each, the maximum amount of funding available under the program. Funding must supplement, not replace, other federal or state dollars.

 

The grants are expected to last for two years, though Jackson says PBIs are seeking congressional support to extend the program beyond two years.

 

“We’re still waiting to hear from the department” on the grant competition, says Jill Hunter-Thompson, legislative director for Rep.

 

Danny Davis, D-Ill., who has sponsored House legislation to assist PBIs.

 

A senior Department of Education official held a briefing on the grant program at the recent National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO) conference in Washington in March. Application deadline dates should be available soon.

 

“It’s a tight schedule because the money is available this fiscal year,” says Jackson. The current fiscal year ends Sept. 30, so the government is likely to make grant awards before that date.

 

Jackson, a board member of NAFEO, says most HBCUs support these initiatives for PBIs.

 

  “Now that [aid to PBIs] is in a separate category, it’s not seen as competing with the HBCU program,” he tells Diverse. “Most HBCUs are comfortable” with the new PBI funding, Jackson adds.

 

Aside from Medgar Evers, other institutions likely to qualify for the new funds include Chicago State University and Sojourner Douglas College in Baltimore. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., who has introduced his own Senate legislation to increase PBI funding, has said that about 75 colleges in 17 states could likely apply for funds as eligible PBIs.

 

In Illinois alone, other likely eligible institutions include Robert Morris College, several campuses of the City Colleges of Chicago, South Suburban College and East-West University.

 

In his own legislation, Obama has used eligibility requirements for colleges such as 40 percent Black undergraduate enrollment, a minimum of at least 1,000 undergraduate students, an undergraduate population with at least 50 percent low-income or first-generation college students, and a student population in which at least half of all undergraduates are in a program leading to an associate or bachelor’s degree.

 

PBIs could also gain through reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, which is now the focus of House/Senate negotiators after both chambers approved different bills. Both chambers have provisions to aid PBIs.

 

The recently approved House bill defines PBIs in ways largely similar to the Obama approach, defining eligibility based on minimum percentages of Black, low-income and first-generation college students.

 

But the House bill would authorize $75 million for the program in 2009.

 

Among other provisions, it would allow PBIs to use federal funds to serve low- and middle-income Black students, promote college preparation and persistence for students in high school and college and improve teacher education.

Colleges could use up to 20 percent of grants to create or increase their endowments.

 

Under the House bill, PBIs would receive funds through an allotment based partly on enrollment of Pell Grant-eligible students and graduation rates for the college.

 

While some issues remain unresolved, Jackson says the tide is moving in the right direction. “We’re very pleased that we are in the ballpark,” he says.

From Today’s Edition

Asian Americans Largely Ignored by Presidential Candidates, Political Scientists Say 

by Lydia Lum
Apr 23, 2008, 23:23

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Despite feverish efforts by presidential candidates to grab voters’ attention, they, along with public opinion polls and mainstream news coverage, have largely ignored Asian Americans so far, several political scientists say.

 

“It’s kind of annoying,” says Dr. Andrew Aoki, associate professor of political science at Augsburg College. “It gives Asian Americans a feeling of being overlooked.”

 

It’s possible the candidates will improve their outreach as the November’s election nears, but Aoki and other scholars aren’t sure whether it would be noticed much.

 

“You rarely see an acknowledgement of Asians in national campaigns,” says Dr. Natalie Masuoka, an assistant professor of political science at Tufts University.

 

Multiple, complex reasons have resulted in the near-invisibility of Asian Americans in the campaign, these scholars say.

 

Nationally, Asian Americans compose about 4 percent of the population. While they are most numerous in states such as Hawaii and California, their ranks are rapidly growing in Nevada, Oregon, Minnesota, New Jersey and elsewhere. Yet this growth across many states, rather than just one or two, leads to perceptions that they don’t form enough of a voting bloc in each state to justify a candidate’s time.

 

After all, a presidential election is based on winning the majority of votes in each state, not necessarily the popular vote nationally.

 

Furthermore, it’s tough to convince candidates that Asians will even bother to cast ballots when considering their turnout during the 2004 election, says Dr. Karthick Ramakrishnan, assistant professor of political science at the University of California, Riverside. He cites the Current Population Survey, which shows that only 55 percent of Asian Americans voted in that election, versus 72 percent of Blacks and 74 percent of Whites. Among Hispanics, only 55 percent voted in 2004, but Hispanics outnumber Asians in the general population by more than 3-to-1, so politicians have a bigger pool of potential supporters in them. Ironically, surveys indicate that Asians generally earn higher incomes and reach higher levels of educational attainment than other racial demographics, Ramakrishnan says. These characteristics would typically make them high-propensity voters.

 

Voter turnout among Asians is low partly because so little campaign outreach targets them, Ramakrishnan says, describing it as an example of the proverbial chicken-egg syndrome.

 

Language diversity remains a challenge too. Unlike U.S. Hispanics who overwhelmingly share Spanish as a commonality, Asian Americans have languages and dialects as different and distinct as Vietnamese, Korean, Tagalog, Mandarin, Gujarati and Urdu — to name only a few.

“Add it together and candidates don’t believe it’s cost-effective to target Asians,” Ramakrishnan says. “Asians don’t have extensive voting histories, so a candidate has no information to start with. And candidates don’t want to risk mobilizing voters who will vote for their opponents.”

 

Similarly, public opinion polls in election politics rarely include Asian Americans because organizers don’t believe it’s worth the cost of providing so many different language interpreters for so few people being polled, says Aoki. He adds that the methodology of polling also has inherent drawbacks that work against Asian inclusion.

 

For instance, if a national poll calls for 600 respondents, that would call for 10 to 25 Asians to reflect their share of the general population. However, a sample of less than 30 in such a poll is too little from which to draw reliable conclusions, Aoki says. So Asians would be excluded.

 

“I understand the methodology problem, but this just adds to the invisibility problem for Asians,” Aoki says.

 

Ramakrishnan adds: “While there are defensible reasons for these decisions, there’s a larger cost to American democracy. Considering the growth of Asian American communities, it’s problematic for political parties and organizations not to invest in them. Hopefully, community organizations and foundations can play a role in changing that.’

 

Neither he, Aoki nor Masuoka were aware Norman Mineta, a cabinet secretary under President Bill Clinton, is endorsing Barack Obama rather than Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination until a reporter recently broached the subject. A Japanese American, Mineta also was a U.S. representative for 20 years. The airport in San Jose, Calif., has been re-named for him.

 

The three scholars criticized the mainstream news media for their relatively scant publicity of Mineta’s endorsement, especially when compared to the widespread coverage of Bill Richardson’s endorsement of Obama over Clinton. A Mexican American, Richardson was a cabinet secretary under Bill Clinton and currently is governor of New Mexico.

 

The trickle of coverage involving Asian Americans this election season so far, Ramakrishnan says, has been reporters doing occasional man-on-the-street interviews in local Chinatowns about voter choices. “It reinforces false stereotypes that all Chinese, all Asians, live in Chinatown,” he says.

 

Masuoka has noticed more mentions of and references to Asian Americans in speeches by Obama as well as Clinton since the February “Super Tuesday” primaries in which Clinton not only defeated Obama in California, but also claimed Asian American votes in that state by a 3-to-1 margin.

 

“That was a positive turn that did a lot for Asian American politics,” says Masuoka, who’s currently a visiting assistant professor at Duke University’s Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity and Gender in Social Sciences. “Based on how both candidates reacted, they clearly saw how Asians can make a difference.”

 

Aoki finds impressive the microtargeting and other strategies of Asian American political activists to try boosting voter turnout this fall. “They’re sophisticated strategies that political campaigns and parties understand,” he says. “Now, the parties need to do their part to bring out Asians.”

 

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