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The Making Of An Historian

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Contents 
  •  Introduction by Dr. Joe B. Frantz 
  •  Experiences as a college freshman in contemporary civilization class 
  •  Theodore S. Currier 
  •  Race at Harvard University and in scholarship 
  •  Racism and experiences writing The Free Negro in North Carolina: 1790 to 1860 
  •  The disappearance of African Americans in American history 
  •  Writing Slavery to Freedom: A History of American Negrosand changes in perspective  
 
Transcript 
  •  FRANTZ: As all elementary students in United States history know, this nation quickly developed sectional attitudes that have played a large role in determining its direction. 
  •  Each sections has its fascinations;each its peculiarities. None has excited more entries than the South. 
  •  John Hope Franklin has devoted his scholarly life to determining what makes the South different in many respects from the other major sections. 
  •  Born in Rentiesville, Oklahoma, he grew up in Tulsa, did his undergraduate work at Fisk University, took his graduate degrees from Harvard. He also holds an LLD from Morgan State College. 
  •  He has taught at Fisk, St.Augustine's, North Carolina College, Howard, and, since 1956, at Brooklyn where he is chairman of the department of history. 
  •  In September 1964, he would join the faculty of the University of Chicago. He has also been a visiting professor at Harvard, Wisconsin, Cornell, Salzburg, California, and Cambridge where in 1962, 63 he was Pitt Professor of American history. 
  •  In addition, he has been a Guggenheim Fellow, a Rosenwald Fellow, President's Fellow at Brown, and Fulbright Professor to Australia. 
  •  He has served both the American and the Mississippi Valley historical associations as a member of their executive councils. 
  •  Dr. Franklin is the author of The Free Negro in North Carolina, The Civil War Diary of James T. Ayres, From Slavery to Freedom: A History of American Negros, The Militant South, and Reconstruction after the Civil War
  •  Professor Franklin will talk to us on the Negro in American history and then on the militant South and Reconstruction. Professor John Hope Franklin. 
  •  FRANKLIN: More than 30 years ago, when I was an excited and excitable teenage undergraduate in a southern college, I had my first serious brush with the study of history. 
  •  I have not yet recovered from the experience,and I do not believe that I ever will. 
  •  The entire freshman class was required to take a course called contemporary civilization. It was a curious mixture of sociology, economics, politics, anthropology, psychology, and history. 
  •  Week after week, we were introduced to a new discipline and therefore a new lecturer. We learned to take these purveyors of knowledge in our stride. 
  •  We even began to feel a bit bored as they spoke of the most learned if pedestrian fashion about such matters as polyandry in the South Seas, definitions and concepts of private property, the growth of nationalism, and some major assumptions of democracy. 
  •  It all sounded very good, and indeed rather simple, and I for one began to feel that I was getting what today might be called instant education. 
  •  Then one day it happened, all of a sudden, there strode into the lecture hall a young man still in his twenties, who was the new chairman of the department of history. 
  •  First I was struck by his accent. I later learned that it was northern New England. Then I was somewhat distracted by the watch charm which he nervously fondled. I later learned that it was his Phi Beta Kappa key. 
  •  Finally, I was entranced by what he had to say. He was talking about the historical antecedents of some recent events. 
  •  He was more concerned with why events transpired than with the simple fact that they had transpired. He was more concerned with the complexities of social phenomena than with a simple pat easy to remember explanations. 
  •  He was never patronizing, and he assumed that we not only had the desire to learn but the ability as well. 
  •  He opened up an entirely new world to me-- the exciting world of man's pilgrimage, of his trials and triumphs, of the lessons that his experiences could teach his progeny if they would only learn. 
  •  And even as I experienced this excitement, I felt a strange transformation. Later I realized that the 16 -year-old aspirant to the legal profession was perceptibly shifting his interests and his aspirations. 
  •  Soon I no longer had my eyes trained on the path that had been followed by Blackstone, Story, and Kempt; rather I was turning more and more store the world of Thucydides and Henry Adams and Edward Channing. 
  •  Three years later, I was so deeply committed to the study of history that I had the presumption to feel that I was a budding historian. 
  •  Professor Theodore S. Currier, a that young chairman at this university and was the person most responsible for this commitment and this presumption. 
  •  Thirty years later, Professor Currier was still stimulating and inspiring budding historians. His approach was rather simple. 
  •  He took a personal interest in any student who indicated a desire to engage in a serious study of history. 
  •  His courses provided a rigorous training in historical criticism, examining the main springs of historical processes, and in writing clearly and thoughtfully about historical problems. 
  •  Even as undergraduates, we were introduced not only to the great classics in history but also to the great ideas and concepts in the philosophy of history. 
  •  We examined theories of history ranging from the economic determinism of Karl Marx to the frontier hypothesis of Frederick Jackson Turner. 
  •  When Walter Prescott Webb's The Great Plainsappeared, we examined its interpretations as if we were seasoned historians and we wrote papers on this and other seminal works. 
  •  When I graduated from college, Professors Currier encouraged me to pursue graduate studies at Harvard University where he had received his training. 
  •  His interest in me and his other students has never flagged, 
  •  and the dedication of one of my books to him is a somewhat feeble token of my esteem for him as a great teacher, a great historian, and a great friend. 
  •  In the late 1930s, Harvard University was the Harvard of Arthur M.Schlesinger, Frederick Murke, Samuel Eliot Morrison, Charles Howard McIlwain, William Scott Ferguson, and Willam Edward Langer. 
  •  There were also Paul Herman Buck and James Baxter the Third, and Benjamin F.Wright, Jr. and many more. 
  •  It was an exciting world, full of creative activity focusing on the past but painfully mindful of the present and future 
  •  A seminar with Schlesinger or Baxter gave one an opportunity, not only to test the knowledge that he acquired, but to gain new knowledge and to improve one's capacity to examine critically his theories as well as his knowledge. 
  •  One of the things that Professor Currier always impressed on his students was, despite the fact that there was feverish activity always in the field of historical research, 
  •  there remained many and unexplored problems, and problems of course that needed to be re-examined 
  •  At Harvard, I myself undertook to roll back the frontiers of historical knowledge by writing papers on some such subjects as the social gospelers of a 19th century and the constitutional position of the Norman Queens 
  •  I sought also to examine a certain problems; for example, by writing at length on the movement of the United States to annex British Columbia to the United, to the United States during the Reconstruction period. These were important exercises. 
  •  They gave me the opportunity to work in manuscripts and other primary sources and to write critically about the researches of others. 
  •  I recall vividly my first research trip with Professor Baxter to the Essex Institute of Salem. 
  •  Bolstered up by being associated with a distinguished historian, I asked for newspapers and manuscripts of the Salem, of the Essex Institute with the self-confidence of a Frederick Jackson Turner. 
  •  At the meetings of the Henry Adams Club, composed of graduate students in United States history, I learned to raise questions, raise questions even with the professors who gave talks read papers. 
  •  And as I did so, I've began to feel that the budding historian was getting too smart for his own good. 
  •  This feeling was not relieved by the fact that, as I walked across the yard at Harvard, I was now recognized and greeted by such illustrious personages as William Yandell Elliott and Samuel Eliot Morris. 
  •  It was downright intoxicating, but the many months of preparation for the doctoral examinations had a sobering effect. 
  •  I began to realize that, although I might receive a doctorate in history, it would take much more than that in order to become a real master of history. 
  •  It was about this time that I began to think seriously of my role as a scholar. 
  •  Harvard University was about as free of racism, I suppose, as any institution in the United States. 
  •  Yet seldom did a day pass without a reminder that I was not merely a graduate student, but a Negro graduate student, 
  •  and I began to think of aspiring young scholars who had perceived, preceded me at Harvard and at other institutions of higher learning. 
  •  Since he began to make his way up the path of learning at the time of the Emancipation, the Negro scholar has been forced first of all to establish his claim to being a scholar or even aspiring to be one. 
  •  This had not been easy for the Negroes that lived in the generation following the Civil War. 
  •  For many Americans did not subscribe to the view that Negros were able to think abstractly or concretely, or to assimilate ideas that had been formulated by others. 
  •  Three of my Negro predecessors at Harvard, W.E.B. Du Bois, Carnegie Wilson, and Alain Locke, epitomize in their careers the history of Negro scholarship in the first half of the 20th century. 
  •  All three were carefully trained and held degrees of doctor of philosophy from Harvard University. 
  •  After writing a doctoral dissertation on the suppression of the African slave trade, the first volume in the Harvard Historical Studies, Du Bois was moved to write a number of significant volumes. 
  •  He not only treated to several aspects of the Negro problem, but he covered a number of areas in the social sciences and in the humanities 
  •  Wilson's first scholarly work, The Disruption of Virginia,was a rather general study, but he soon settled down to a systematic studying of the history of the Negro. 
  •  Alain Locke's career, which is quite different from the career of the others, was begun at Harvard College where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. 
  •  A Rhodes scholar at Oxford and a postgraduate student at the University of Berlin, Locke later used his training in philosophy and history up to assume the leadership in the literary activity that came to be known as the Negro Renaissance. 
  •  Under the shadow and influence all of these three figures and others, there emerged a number of Negro scholars who devoted themselves almost exclusively to some aspect of the Negro. 
  •  As the Negro scholar moved into fields soon to be recognized as the history of the Negro, the sociology of the Negro and so on, he went far toward making an institution of the field of Negro studies. 
  •  He had in a sense become the victim of segregation in the field of scholarship in the same way that Negros in other fields have become victims of segregation-- there were the Negro press, the Negro church, Negro business, and now Negro scholarship. 
  •  Negros scholars, whether they were sociologists, economists, or historians, studied their own people and their past and their present because of the obviously neglect of them in general and because of the flagrant distortions and misrepresentations on their position in American life. 
  •  And as the field of Negro studies became respectable, largely because of the impeccable scholarship of the Negro scholars, many whites began to feel that Negros had peculiar talents that fitted them to study themselves on their own problems. 
  •  To the extent that this view was held, it violated a basic principle of scholarship; 
  •  namely that given the materials and techniques of scholarship and given the ability and temperament of a scholar, any person of any race can engage in the study of in any particular field, 
  •  and the widespread interest of white scholars in Negros studies today and their extraordinary and significant contributions represent an important rehabilitation of the very concept of scholarship in the United States. 
  •  These were some of the things that I thought of as I made my way over one academic hurdle after another in graduate school. 
  •  There were a number of problems related to the history of the Negro in the United States that had intrigued me since my undergraduate days. 
  •  I believed that I was sufficiently trained as a professional historian to be able to write about the Negro with objectivity. 
  •  I had no intention of avoiding making judgments for I believed then, as I do now, that this is the responsibility of the historian. 
  •  But I deplored, then as I do now, in a special pleading or polemics in the field of historical scholarship. 
  •  And I was determined that when I wrote about Negros, which I would not always do, I would be scrupulously objective without being fatuous. 
  •  I would be the judge of my materials and all the way in which I would use them without in any way ever violating the canons of sound historical scholarship. 
  •  One of the papers I wrote as an undergraduate dealt with free Negroes in the antebellum South. 
  •  While casting about for a topic on which to write a doctoral dissertation, I discovered that very little had ever been written about the free Negro in the period before the Civil War. 
  •  The last monograph on the subject dealt with the free Negro in Maryland and written almost a quarter of a century earlier. 
  •  I discussed the matter with my professors, and Paul Bloch, who was my advisor, encouraged me to study the free Negro in North Carolina 
  •  With a fellowship from the Julius Rosenwald fund and with the blessings of my Harvard professors, I set out to do the research that led to the writing of my doctoral dissertation 
  •  The Free Negro in North Carolina: 1790 to 1860and in 1943, it became my first published book. 
  •  Early in my researches, my capacity to remain objective and indeed to persist in my undertaking was sorely tested. 
  •  Much of the manuscript material I needed was in the North Carolina Department of Archives and History at Raleigh. 
  •  When I went there to begin my work, my arrival created a panic and an emergency among the administrators that was in itself an incident of historic proportions. 
  •  The archivist who held a Ph.D. in history from an eastern university frankly informed me that I was the first Negro who had sought to use the facility there. 
  •  The trouble was that the architect who designed the building had not anticipated the situation with which they were now faced. 
  •  That was only one reading room for whites; 
  •  therefore, my use of the manuscripts and other materials would have to be postponed for several days during which time one of the exhibition rooms would be converted to a reading room for me. 
  •  At the appointed time three days later, I settled down at this state facilities to study the plight of the free Negro of an earlier day. 
  •  Working in the manuscripts in North Carolina, I recall the first thrill I experienced several days earlier when my professors supervised the use of my first manuscripts in Salem. 
  •  Now, I was completely on my own, making decisions about which collection to examine now and which to examine next. 
  •  Indeed I was on my own even more than I had wanted to be. 
  •  Fearful that the white assistants would refuse to bring the boxes of manuscripts to me, the archivist presented me with a key to the carefully guided manuscripts section of the stacks. 
  •  I was free to roam about and sample whatever collections I care to. This lasted until some white researchers, jealous of my freedom, insisted on equal treatment. 
  •  Whereupon the archivist recalled my key,and I was forced to submit my requests to the ever courteous white assistants. 
  •  In the months that followed, I worked through the collections of the state archives in Duke University, University of North Carolina, and the Library of Congress. 
  •  I spent weeks at the Census Bureau in Washington carefully listing in bound notebooks the name, age, occupation, and residence of each of the 30,000 free Negroes,who lived in North Carolina in 1860. 
  •  In the end I had more material than I could ever use, but it was all quite valuable in assisting me in making valid generalizations and sound conclusions. 
  •  I describe in some detail the growth of the free Negro population and sought to explain the various reasons for growth. 
  •  I gave particular attention to the legal status of free Negroes and, where possible, contrasted their status with that of slaves. 
  •  I was especially interested in the almost universal hostility to free Negroes, pariahs of the land they recall. 
  •  And I recall their anomalous position in an area that was deeply committed to slavery. 
  •  They were set apart and without any contact with slaves of white persons. 
  •  In my study, I gave some attention to liberalism of North Carolina for which even then the state enjoyed a widespread reputation. 
  •  I noted that free Negroes are voted in North Carolina down to 1835 longer than in any other Southern states. 
  •  The state lagged behind its sister states in the enactment of harsh free Negro legislation. 
  •  And what Negro laws there were were indifferently enforced. 
  •  I failed however to find the source of this liberalism in any humanitarian as some peculiar to the state. 
  •  Rather I said, in 1941, this grew out of all the economic instability of the slave system, the frequently unsettled state of economic and social life, the presence of a large yeoman class, and the inarticulateness of a predominantly rural population. 
  •  I believed then, as I do now, that one sees in the crystallization of the attitudes for the free Negro before the Civil War, the beginnings of the determination on the part of white America to hold the free Negro in a subordinate position. 
  •  What was done to the free Negro in a slave society in was also the pattern of what was to be done to Negros when they became free. 
  •  This concentration on one segment of the population, in one state, and in a particular period of time, did not, I hope, prevent me from seeing the history of the United States as a whole. 
  •  After all, even in the midst of my specialized researches, I continued to teach in small southern colleges where it was necessary for me to teach virtually every phase of the human experience. 
  •  In fact, one of my most successful courses in my first year of teaching was a survey of Tudor England, a period of English history in which I had not had any formal training. 
  •  The more I thought the history of the United States using standard textbooks and documentary sources, the more I realized that the same thing that happened in American historiography had happened in other phases of American life 
  •  The Negro was either not mentioned at all or was an unpleasant afterthought. 
  •  The Negro was either the invisible man of Ralph Ellison or, in the words of James Baldwin, a fantasy in the mind of the Republic. 
  •  By this time I had read every volume of the Journal of Negro History, and I had read many of the monographs written by Negroes and some white scholars that fill in the gaps, as it were, 
  •  and suggested to me that the complete history of the United States should contain much more about the Negro than I could find in any general work. 
  •  I was greatly troubled by this discovery. 
  •  It was bad enough, I thought, that the histories of the United States generally ignored the Negro except as a docile slave or a corrupt dupe during the Reconstruction. 
  •  As so called authentic accounts of the history of the country, they said to the Negro student that his forebears were of no great importance even as hewers of wood and drawers of water. 
  •  They also said that, even at a later date, Negroes were beyond the pale, unworthy to enjoy the benefits of a great Western civilization. 
  •  These accounts said to the white students that they lived on a white man's civilization and deserved for their exclusive use the benefits that were to be had derived from such a civilization 
  •  I learned of George Washington's early reluctance to use Negro troops in the war for independence. 
  •  I knew he had used them with alacrity and promised them their freedom only when he discovered that the British were already doing so. The books I was using said nothing about this. 
  •  I knew that an early draft of the Declaration of Independence arraigned the King George III for maintaining slavery and the slave trade. 
  •  I also knew that this arraignment had been deleted from the final draft of the Declaration of Independence, 
  •  lest the victory by the patriots lead logically lead to ending slavery and the slave trade, as it was to do of course in most of the Latin American wars for independence. 
  •  But few if any general histories of the United States made any mention of this very significant fact. 
  •  I gradually came to feel that some rectification in the writing and teaching of the history of the United States was much needed. 
  •  What precisely was needed occupied my mind for several years. 
  •  Most of the southern Negro colleges, including the ones in which I taught, recognized the need and had instituted special courses on the history of the Negro. 
  •  I found myself teaching such a course, another one incidentally in which I had received no formal training. 
  •  I recall that my father told me that while he was taking the bar examination, waiting to take the bar examination in Oklahoma, he had taught school 
  •  And when he discovered that the young Negroes were learning nothing about themselves and their history, and he would instruct them in such matters on the days when he felt certain that he would not be visited by the supervisor. 
  •  At least I did not have to teach the subject clandestinely, but I was still troubled. 
  •  I was troubled about balance and distortion, overemphasis, misrepresentation. 
  •  I suppose that is why I worked so very hard on the effort to place the history of the Negro in the mainstream of the history of the United States. 
  •  That is also why,and even as I call a special course on the history of the Negro, I was doing more than I had ever done to integrate the history of the Negro into my general course of United States history 
  •  One day, quite unexpectedly, while I was teaching at the state college in Durham, North Carolina, an editor from a New York publishing house called me. 
  •  He indicated that he had read some of the things that I've written and wondered if I had thought of writing a general history of the Negro in the United States. 
  •  I assured him that nothing of the sort of had ever entered or crossed my mind. 
  •  He then said that such a work would be a significant contribution to historical scholarship and could be an effective supplement in the teaching of the history of the United States. 
  •  Within a short while, he convinced me not only that such a work was highly desirable, but that I should undertake such a work. 
  •  Within a few weeks I was launched on the stupendous task of collecting and organizing the notes that I had already taken and of doing additional research in order to write From Slavery to Freedom: A History of American Negros
  •  I was staggered by the magnitude of the undertaking, and, on more than one occasion, I reproached myself for having the temerity to write a book that might properly more come, might more properly come, at the end of one's career that at the beginning. 
  •  I fretted about the lack of certain kinds of sources and especially about the absence of materials and manuscripts by Negroes themselves before Emancipation. 
  •  I was of the opinion that any history of the Negro in the United States should give attention to the African background about which I knew very little. 
  •  And soon I was plunged into a very deep study of the Dark Continent. It seemed the more, it seemed necessary moreover that to know something about Negros in other parts of the New World. 
  •  And soon I was studying the Negro in the New World wherever I found him. 
  •  The longer I worked on the history of American Negroes, the more I realize that it would have been impossible for me to write the book if scores of my predecessors and contemporaries had not done a vast amount of spade work, 
  •  producing articles and monographs touching on virtually every aspect of Negro life in history. 
  •  In order to facilitate my research, I worked at the great collections on the Negro at the Moorland Foundation in New York and at the cham, at the Howard University collection in Washington, D.C. 
  •  In such places, I discovered riches that I did not know existed-- complete files of early Negro newspapers, letters and diaries of Negroes dating back to the early centuries. 
  •  By the time that I settled down to the writing of the From Slavery to Freedom: a History of American Negroes
  •  I've been out of graduate school almost five years,and I was far enough away from my doctoral dissertation to have developed a somewhat different view about writing history. 
  •  I've come to feel that I wanted to be read by a large public, and I was especially anxious that this book, that ought to be of great interest to many people should be written in such a way that would hold the attention of the educated lay reader, 
  •  and the fact that a great New York publisher had agreed to publish it placed me under greater pressure to write with some style and literary facility, felicity. 
  •  I shuddered at the thought that Alfred would pronounce my manuscript unreadable and therefore unprintable. 
  •  On the other hand, I hoped that the Book of the Month Club would not select any more [cannot?]books before my book was published, lest they use that as an excuse for not selecting mine. 
  •  Thus, as I proceeded with writing this history of American Negroes, I found myself expending the limit of my energy, training, and ingenuity in order to produce a work 
  •  that was at once sound historical scholarship, significant in its contribution, and acceptable if not meritorious in its literary quality. 
  •  This was, in many ways,the greatest challenge of my life, and its completion and publication were a source of untold relief and some satisfaction. 
 
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Metadata

Title:The Making Of An Historian
Identifier:dv_00003
Description: John Hope Franklin delivers a 30-minute lecture on his path to becoming a historian, detailing the formative professors and research that led to his first book, "The Free Negro in North Carolina: 1790-1860," and the incomplete historiography of African-Americans he found in textbooks of the time, which inspired him to write his next book, "From Slavery to Freedom: A History of Negro Americans." Professor Franklin visited the University of Texas at Austin in January 1964 to deliver two lectures as part of “The History of American Civilization by Its Interpreters,” a videotaped series featuring leading historians discussing their areas of expertise. Professor Franklin’s other lecture is entitled, “The Militant South.”
Country:United States
State:Texas
City:Austin
Date:1964/01
CreatorRadio/Television Department, University of Texas at Austin
Franklin, John Hope (lecturer)
Location:4115 (LSF #3779701)
Source:KLRU-TEMP Videotape Collection
Contributor:Frantz, Joe B. (project director)
Squier, Robert D. (television director)
Hendricks, Lyle (art, set, and titles)
Language:en
PublisherDolph Briscoe Center for American History
Rights:Dolph Briscoe Center for American History
Original Format:Videotape (2" Quad)

The initial rich media version of this video was created by Andrea Cato and Quinn Stewart, October 2010. Their work was made possible by the School of Information, University of Texas at Austin and the Institute for Museum & Library Services.