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John Hope Franklin, Another Angle

Between 1936 and 1938 more than 2000 former slaves were interviewed by the Federal Writers’ Project of the Works Progress Administration (WPA).  The following link is to excerpts from the narratives assembled from those interviews:
 
http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/snhtml/snvoices00.html
 
Only a heart the size of a mustard seed and encrusted with steel would be unmoved by those testimonies.
 
The eminent historian John Hope Franklin, who died on March 25, 2009 at age ninety-four, was not a part of the Federal Writers’ Project, but he experienced the fellowship of former slaves.  He also met Barack Obama, the first African American President of the United States!!
 
That his extended right hand touched the hands of former slaves as well as that of President Obama brings new meaning to the title of his celebrated 1947 book, From Slavery to Freedom.  His scholarship and life experiences should also remind us that American slavery isn’t too far from living memory.
 
Perhaps there should be a national effort to find and interview others who can remember conversations with former slaves.  There is probably no one else who, at eighty or ninety years of age, combines Professor Franklin’s scholarship, humanity and acuity of mind.  Even so, the fact that there are Americans alive today who met former slaves, yet lived to see a black man elected President, is powerful testimony to what is possible in our country.

David Evans

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