Terra Sigillata

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The heavy blanket of moisture across the City-That-Tobacco-Built is being broken this morning on the 69th wedding anniversary of the late civil rights scholar, Dr John Hope Franklin, and his late wife, Aurelia Whittington Franklin, with a high-profile memorial and celebration of their lives. Leading the dignitaries in speaking will be former President William Jefferson Clinton and attorney Vernon Jordan, Jr.

The memorial will be held today, 11 am – 1 pm EDT, on the campus of the University-That-Tobacco-Built in the conservatively-named Duke Chapel, more appropriately described as a Gothic cathedral. Ironically, Duke Chapel was designed by an African American architect in Philadelphia who has been reported as never able to visit his creation due to race relations in the South when construction was completed in 1935.

The architect was Julian Abele, chief designer with the Horace Trumbauer firm, of Philadelphia. America’s first black architect of renown, Abele was educated at the University of Pennsylvania and in France. In addition to Duke’s original West Campus, he designed the Georgian buildings on Duke’s East Campus. Abele’s other designs include the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Harvard’s Widener Library, and mansions for James B. Duke.


The stream of cars is already filing in and a spillover site will be at Duke’s Page Auditorium. However, and the reason I am posting this here, is that readers around the world can dial-in at UStream.tv via this link, again, beginning at 11 am EDT (GMT-4:00 this time of year).

We wrote extensively about Dr and Mrs Franklin when the professor passed away in late March. For perspective from that post:

Dr Franklin, or John Hope as he preferred to be called, will forever be recognized as one of the most influential African Americans of the 20th century. Franklin is perhaps best known as a historical scholar for his 1947 treatise, From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African-Americans.

Jane Stancill wrote in the News & Observer:

His scholarship helped ensure that no American history book could be complete without the story of African-Americans, and that America had to confront the reality of slavery and segregation in its past.

He was at the forefront of some of the biggest turning points in the nation’s civil rights history. In 1953, he helped NAACP lawyers with research for the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education school desegregation case. In 1965, he joined a group of historians who marched with Dr. Martin Luther King from Selma to Montgomery. Five decades after his masterpiece was published, he was appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1997 to lead a national initiative on race.