May 26, 2018
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DURHAM, N.C. -- Duke University will host “A Celebration of the Lives of John Hope and Aurelia Whittington Franklin,” on Thursday, June 11, to honor the late historian and his late wife, who were married on June 11, 1940. 

Featured speakers at the event include former U.S. President Bill Clinton, who in 1997 appointed John Hope Franklin to chair a national task force on race, and attorney and civil rights leader Vernon Jordan, Franklin’s longtime friend. Duke trustee emerita Mary Duke Biddle Trent Semans and Duke President Richard H. Brodhead will also give remarks. The celebration is open to the public, and begins at 11 a.m. in Duke Chapel. 

The Franklins’ son and daughter-in-law, John Whittington and Karen Roberts Franklin, arranged the celebration, which includes a number of other speakers and several musical performances. Overflow seating is available in Page Auditorium. 

Per his wishes, there was no funeral or memorial service for John Hope Franklin following his death this March. Instead, his family planned a celebration of his and his wife’s lives in honor of their 69th wedding anniversary. Aurelia Whittington Franklin died in 1999. 

John Whittington Franklin will provide opening remarks. Other speakers include: 

-- Vivian Mildred Corbett Bailey, John Hope Franklin’s childhood friend; 

-- Thavolia Glymph, chair of Duke’s African and African American Studies department; 

-- Evelyn Higginbotham, Harvard history professor and co-author of the 9th edition of “From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African Americans”; 

-- David Levering Lewis, a New York University history professor; 

-- Emily Mann, friend and director of the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, N.J.; 

-- Genna Rae McNeil, former student and history professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; 

-- Cynthia Gibbs Wilson, niece of John Hope and Aurelia Whittington Franklin. 

The Fisk Jubilee Singers of Fisk University, where as students John Hope Franklin met Aurelia Whittington, will perform three selections. Duke violinist Eric Pritchard and trumpet player James Ketch of the University of North Carolina will each perform dedicated works by Chapel Hill composer T.J. Anderson. 

Visitors may park in the Bryan Center parking garage on Duke’s West Campus. In addition, visitors can park in lots along Duke University Road near Chapel Drive, where shuttles will be available to bring them to the chapel. People with accessibility needs may be dropped off at the chapel, but their drivers must park in general parking. Traffic is expected to be heavy due to multiple events on campus. 

The program will be aired live on UNC-TV, and Duke will provide a live webcast at 

For more information and updates, visit 
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About John Hope Franklin 

John Hope Franklin, the scholar who helped create the field of African-American history, died at age 94 on March 25, 2009. His reputation as a scholar was made in 1947 with the publication of his book, “From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African-Americans,” which is still considered the definitive account of the black experience in America 60 years after its publication. He spent 16 years at the University of Chicago, coming to Duke in 1982 for an appointment in the history department, and later, as professor of legal history at the Duke Law School. In 2001, Duke opened the John Hope Franklin Center for Interdisciplinary and International Studies, where scholars, artists and members of the community have the opportunity to engage in public discourse. Franklin’s many honors include the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. 


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