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Destroying the Color Line: John Hope Franklin and President Bill Clinton

October 27, 2005

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John Hope Franklin's upcoming autobiography, Mirror to America, recounts not only the story of his life but also the epic story of the twentieth-century fight for civil rights. In 1997 he was appointed by President Clinton to chair the President's Initiative on Race. On October 27, 2005, they will discuss race in America and how to "destroy the color line that continues to divide our country."

John Hope Franklin lived through America's defining twentieth-century transformation the dismantling of legally protected racial segregation. A renowned scholar, he has explored that transformation in its myriad aspects, most notably in his book, From Slavery to Freedom. He experienced segregation firsthand. Born in 1915, he was evicted from whites-only train cars, confined to segregated schools, threatened once with lynching and consistently faced racism's denigration of his humanity. He earned a Ph.D. from Harvard; became the first black historian to assume a full professorship at a white institution; reshaped the way African American history is understood and taught; and personally challenged the racism he chronicled. From his effort in 1934 to force President Franklin Roosevelt to respond to the Cordie Cheek lynching, to his 1997 appointment to head President Clinton's initiative on race, Franklin, with determination and dignity, has influenced the nation's racial conscience. His books include George Washington Williams: A Biography, Reconstruction After the Civil War, The Emancipation Proclamation, and Racial Equality in America, an examination of the egalitarian principles of America's founding fathers. In 1995, Franklin's lifelong fight for civil rights earned him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor. John Hope Franklin taught at Howard University, Brooklyn College, University of Chicago, and Duke University. He maintains a greenhouse containing more than 200 orchids, one, the "phalaeonopsis John Hope Franklin," named for him.

"With his remarkable sense of humanity, renowned historian John Hope Franklin shares his life journey--an odyssey marked by scholarship, public service, and his passionate commitment to improve the condition of African Americans and their relations with their fellow citizens. Through candid stories of Franklin's relentless pursuit of equality, Mirror to America calls upon all Americans to look at our nation's past so that we may destroy the color line that continues to divide our country, and progress together into the future." -- President Bill Clinton

David Ostwald will open the evening with his Gully Low Jazz Band aka The Louis Armstrong Centennial Band.

David Ostwald, tuba, leader
Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet
Anat Cohen, clarinet
Vincent Gardner, trombone, vocals
James Chirillo, banjo
Marion Felder, drums

Inspired by such jazz pioneers as Louis Armstrong, Bix Beiderbecke, Duke Ellington, and Jelly Roll Morton, David Ostwald's band has appeared at Lincoln Center's Midsummer's Night Swing, at The New York Public Library's Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, at Lionel Hampton's New Orleans-style funeral procession, and every week for the past six years at Birdland. The band will perform Fats Waller's Black and Blue, Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen, and Duke Ellington's Black and Tan Fantasy.