Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Duke Lemur Center remembers John Hope Franklin

Just months before his death at age 94, John Hope Franklin visited the Duke Lemur Center. News of his impending visit sent ripples of excitement through the staff. We knew that this was a man who not only read history, studied history, wrote history and taught it, but he had lived history and by the way he lived, he had changed it. John Hope Franklin was this country's premier chronicler of the African American story and a James B. Duke Professor Emeritus of History at Duke University.

For the Duke Lemur Center, our brush with Dr. Franklin was all too brief, but we were moved by his presence. Everyone who met him was impressed by his calm dignity, his warmth, and his genuine humility. Yet, it was easy to see why Henry Louis Gates, Jr., director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research referred to Dr. Franklin as "the Prince." At 94, John Hope retained his regal bearing.

Also evident, as John Hope Franklin toured the Lemur Center and fed an aye-aye a raisin, was the delight in learning that along with his intellectual rigor and engaged passion had fueled a long and prestigious career. It was an honor to have him visit. We join the many who remember an honorable man, who made a difference.

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