Oklahoma native, civil rights pioneer passes away 

'Scuse us while we turn down the snark on this week's final CFN: John Hope Franklin's memories of Oklahoma are some of the worst any man could imagine. And yet, he is considered one the state's greatest treasures.

Born in 1915 in the tiny town of Rentiesville, south of Muskogee, Franklin's early life in Oklahoma would be hard enough to write about, let alone live through. A child of Jim Crow laws, he and his family witnessed the horrific carnage of the 1921 Tulsa race riot. Sparked from the accusations of a black man assaulting a white teenage girl, the violence ensued for days and left the black community of Tulsa in ruins. Official reports said 39 people died from the riots, most of them black, but other reports put that number at much higher.

But from this tragic start, Franklin embarked on a career that put him at the center of the civil rights movement, culminating with the Presidential Medal of Freedom given by President Bill Clinton in 1995. His scholarly tenure included teaching at Duke and Harvard universities. A major achievement came in the '50s when he was appointed chair of the history department at Brooklyn College, the first black person to chair a department at a college not historically black.

Franklin traveled back to Oklahoma in recent years when the state began to research the truth of the Tulsa race riot and what should be done to compensate the survivors. He was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 1978.

Franklin passed away last week at the age of 94 in Durham, N.C.

He will be deeply missed, but his legacy is one that will surely endure, President Barack Obama said in a press release upon Franklin's death: "Because of the life John Hope Franklin lived, the public service he rendered, and the scholarship that was the mark of his distinguished career, we all have a richer understanding of who we are as Americans and our journey as a people. Dr. Franklin will be deeply missed, but his legacy is one that will surely endure."

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