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JFK's Appointment of John Hope Franklin; One More Nail In His Coffin?

Guest Tom Scully

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Guest Tom Scully

It seems that it will always be necessary to highlight the absurdity of the official line of the right wing extremists who controlled the FBI, CIA, and the Warren Commission, during and after JFK's presidential term. History shows that right wing extremism permeated almost all government institutions, the press, and certainly the Dallas Police Dept. The question for today is whether that political extremism has shifted all that much. IMO, it hasn't...and the FBI's retention of the 18 pages described below is but a small sign supporting my opinion. The vast majority of us are still oriented too far to the right to perceive how far right we are. The media, daily describes center right oriented democrats as "ultra left liberals."


The John Hope Franklin File: FBI Looked At Esteemed Historian For Communist Ties

Justin Elliott | December 15, 2009,

The celebrated historian John Hope Franklin was scrutinized by the FBI in the 1960s for supposed links to communists, particularly his opposition to the House Committee on Un-American Activities and his vocal support for W.E.B. Du Bois.

"Dr. Franklin is an apologist for the late Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois, a prominent crusader for civil rights and a sponsor of communist fronts who joined the Communist Party at the age of 93," wrote an unidentified FBI official in a letter to the White House in July 1965.

Franklin's file, obtained by TPMmuckraker through the Freedom of Information Act, is mainly a collection of background checks conducted when he was up for presidential appointments (though the FBI withheld 18 pages of the 515-page file). The author of the classic From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African-Americans, Franklin died in May at 94.

He was appointed by President Kennedy to the Board of Foreign Scholarships in 1962 and his background checks show universally glowing praise from friends, neighbors, and colleagues.

But that wasn't enough for J. Edgar Hoover's FBI. Almost dripping off the pages are overheated Cold War suspicions about Franklin's links, even two or three degrees removed, to communists.

Among the topics addressed in the files are: a favorable review of one of his books in the American Communist Party's Daily Worker in 1956; Franklin's signature on a petition against Joseph McCarthy's Committee on Un-American Activities, printed in the New York Times; his praise for a book by the Marxist historian Herbert Aptheker; his support for the Chicago school boycotts protesting segregated schools; and a 1968 speech he gave in Madison, Wisconsin, sponsored by Concerned Black People, a group with "Communist Party affiliations" that "openly opposed United States foreign policy in Vietnam."

Of particular interest to the FBI was Franklin's speech at a tribute to Du Bois at Carnegie Hall in early 1964, several months after Du Bois' death in Ghana. Franklin's presence generated a brief report by the bureau's New York office. Then, in 1965, a memo from the FBI's Chicago office, quotes Franklin's remarks about Du Bois -- who had joined the Communist Party in the last years of his life -- to the black journal Freedomways and the Nation of Islam publication Muhammad Speaks.

"Dr. Du Bois has been an inspiration to me and to most members of my generation. ... His impeccable scholarship, his fearlessness as a leader,and his determination to secure freedom for all peoples, were the hallmarks of his great and illustrious life," Franklin said.

Referencing the failed prosecution of Du Bois for antiwar activism (under the Foreign Agents Registration Act), Franklin told Muhammad Speaks in 1964: "I wish I could eradicate from my memory the picture of Dr. Du Bois, handcuffed like some common thief, accused at eighty years of age of being the agent of a foreign power. Even his later exoneration cannot obliterate from my mind the impression that, perhaps he was the victim not merely of the fanatacism that characterized those years, but that he was being punished for what he had represented for more than half a century."

For such statements, Franklin was viewed suspiciously by the bureau. One 1965 memo from the FBI director requesting an updated background check ends with: "Appropriate informants familiar with CP and communist front activities should be contacted during the investigation."

Take a look at an excerpt from the FBI's Franklin file here.


Century-Old Race Riot Still Resonates in Atlanta

by Kathy Lohr

September 22, 2006

On a warm and sultry Saturday, on Sept. 22, 1906, thousands of whites in Atlanta joined together in the downtown area and began attacking and killing blacks in the city. The violence continued for four days. By the official count, 12 blacks and two whites were killed. Although many historians say dozens were murdered, the 1906 race riot has not been commemorated or taught in schools until now.

The riot broke out in the Five Points area of Atlanta, the heart of the city. Today, Five Points is the center of a bustling downtown area, with high-rise office buildings and banks. Even then, Atlanta was considered the capital of the New South....

...A Pressure Cooker of Anxieties

"There was a great deal of concern about the city itself, and the decaying morals associated with an urban environment," says Cliff Kuhn, a history professor at Georgia State University. That anxiety, he says, extended to debates about the proper role of women and of race.

The 1906 governor's campaign fueled the racial fire. Clark Howell and Hoke Smith, rivals for the Democratic nomination for governor, spent much of the time debating how they could get rid of black men at the polls. The newspapers printed stories of local lynchings and of the need for a new Klan organization to control blacks. Saloons -- known as dives -- were targeted along Decatur Street. Prohibitionists called them havens for black criminals.

Then came a barrage of headlines of alleged attacks on white women. Four such alleged attacks were reported in the papers in rapid succession.

Kuhn tells the story: "Newsboys are hawking these editions: 'Extra! Extra! Read all about it!' And at the corner of Pryor and Decatur Street, a man gets up on a soapbox and waves one of these newspaper headlines and says, 'Are we going to let them do this to our white women? Come on, boys!' And the mob surges down Decatur Street."

Mayhem and Murder on the Streets

Thousands of whites congregated downtown, armed with any kind of weapon they could find: pitch forks, guns and knives. Kuhn says the riot began about 10 o'clock. It was, he says, "a pitched battle in the heart of downtown Atlanta, involving as many as 10,000 white men and hundreds of black men and women, who were unfortunate enough to be there on the street."

One of those who witnessed the riot was 13-year-old Walter White, the son of a letter carrier. He was black, although he didn't look it, with blond hair, blue eyes and fair skin. His niece, Rose Martin Palmer, recalls White's story.

"When they got up to Peachtree, towards the Herndon barber shop, he saw the mob," Palmer says. "And this little boy with this withered foot ran out of the barber shop. And [Walter] saw him clubbed to death by the mob. And this is what stirred in him the feeling of understanding of what hatred was all about -- race hatred."

This was the defining moment for Walter White, who went on to devote much of his life to improving race relations; he would eventually became the executive secretary of the NAACP.

Others recall stories of the 1906 race riot that remained with them all their lives....

...A City Engulfed in Chaos

As the chaos continued, barber shops and other black businesses were attacked, along with street cars. Both races used street cars for transportation -- whites sitting in the front and blacks in the rear. Black men and women were pulled off street cars, beaten and killed.

The riot continued for days. The governor called out the militia. More than 250 blacks were arrested in Brownsville, south of Atlanta, after a white policeman was killed there as the community tried to defend itself. Clarissa Myrick Harris, a history professor and co-curator of an exhibit about the Atlanta riot, says the number of victims was much greater than the official records show.

"Bodies disappeared," Harris says. "Families did not want it known that their loved ones died during the riot, because they feared further retribution. They feared that someone would come attack them."

Atlanta officials, she says, also did not want the true death toll reported, because "that would further damage the reputation of the city."

An Opening for Interracial Dialogue...

W.E.B. Du Bois, an African-American educator, writer and social activist. The riot's aftermath helped move black activists away from an accommodationist stance and toward the more aggressive push for racial equality advocated by Du Bois.

In the wake of the 1906 riot, Du Bois wrote a moving poem called "The Litany of Atlanta." Read the poem. http://www.npr.org/programs/atc/features/2...ceriot/poem.pdf


...Historian David Levering Lewis wrote, "In the course of his long, turbulent career, W. E. B. Du Bois attempted virtually every possible solution to the problem of twentieth-century racism— scholarship, propaganda, integration, national self-determination, human rights, cultural and economic separatism, politics, international communism, expatriation, third world solidarity."[3]...

In 1959, Du Bois received the Lenin Peace Prize. In 1961, at the age of 93, he joined the Communist Party USA, at a time when it was long past its peak of support.

Just forty days before he was assassinated, Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke at an event marking the hundredth anniversary of Du Bois' birth, at Carnegie Hall in New York City:[42]

We cannot talk of Dr. Du Bois without recognizing that he was a radical all of his life. Some people would like to ignore the fact that he was a Communist in his later years. It is worth noting that Abraham Lincoln warmly welcomed the support of Karl Marx during the Civil War and corresponded with him freely. In contemporary life, the English speaking world has no difficulty with the fact that Sean O'Casey was a literary giant of the twentieth century and a Communist, or that Pablo Neruda is generally considered the greatest living poet though he also served in the Chilean Senate as a Communist. It is time to cease muting the fact that Dr. Du Bois was a genius and chose to be a Communist. Our irrational obsessive anti-communism has led us into too many quagmires to be retained as if it were a mode of scientific thinking. …Dr. Du Bois' greatest virtue was his committed empathy with all the oppressed and his divine dissatisfaction with all forms of injustice.[43]

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