Skip to main content

Duke Continues Yearlong Celebration Of John Hope Franklin On His 100th Birthday

Events begin Oct. 15 with lecture by historian Thomas C. Holt 

Duke University will culminate its yearlong tribute to the late historian John Hope Franklin in honor of his 100th birthday with a series of events. They include a lecture by a noted historian, the world premiere of a commissioned musical piece and a three-day academic symposium. 

Unless indicated, all events for “John Hope Franklin@100: Scholar, Activist, Citizen,” are free and open to the public. 

Historian Thomas C. Holt will deliver a lecture, “John Hope Franklin and the Black Intellectuals of ‘The Greatest Generation,’” at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 15. The event takes place in Room 04 at Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy. Parking is available in the Bryan Center parking garage. 

Holt, a MacArthur fellow and former president of the American Historical Association, is the James Westfall Thompson Distinguished Service Professor of American and African American history at the University of Chicago. 

Duke Law School will host a talk on the history of black refugees by history professor Thavolia Glymph at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 28, in Room 3041 of the law school. 

At 8 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 29, in Baldwin Auditorium, Duke Performances will present the world premiere of composer Frederic Rzewski’s “Sometimes,” commissioned in honor of Franklin and based on the traditional spiritual, “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child.” The piece was written for the quintet Imani Winds, whom The New Yorker called “the nation’s leading wind quintet.” 

Rzewski has earned acclaim for his experiments in form and notation and his recordings on labels such as Vanguard and Nonesuch. 

Imani Winds will be joined by the Fisk Jubilee Singers, an a cappellaensemble operating continuously since 1871 at Franklin’s alma mater, Fisk University. 

To purchase tickets, visit

On Wednesday, Nov. 4, the John Hope Franklin Center (2204 Erwin Road) will host a noon presentation by members of the John Hope Franklin Center for Reconciliation, Inc., based in Tulsa, Okla. Speakers include Jocelyn Lee Payne, executive director; Pauline Harris, educator and human rights coordinator for Tulsa Public Schools; and Jeff Kos, board member and officer of the Center for Reconciliation. A light lunch will be served. 

The yearlong celebration continues with a three-day symposium, Nov. 5-7, “Global Slaveries|Impossible Freedoms: The Intellectual Legacies of John Hope Franklin.” 

Keynote speakers, scholars and activists from around the country will assemble to reflect not only on Franklin’s 100th birthday, but also on the anniversary of a number of other important events in U.S. history, including the end of the Civil War, the ratification of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution and the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. 

Speakers will address themes such as slavery and capitalism; black political thought; women’s rights; gender, sexuality and the state; the black struggle for freedom; and the lingering stains of racism.  

The symposium will open with a keynote address by Drew Gilpin Faust, historian and president of Harvard University, at 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 5, at the Nasher Museum of Art. 

The symposium features: 

-- Political activist and author Angela Davis, a Distinguished Professor Emerita at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who will offer keynote remarks at 9 a.m., Friday, Nov. 6, in Baldwin Auditorium. 

-- A performance by SLIPPAGE, a technology and dance working group founded by Duke dance professor Thomas F. DeFrantz, at the Nasher Museum of Art, at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 6, and a keynote address by visual artist Lorna Simpson

-- A keynote address by Saidiya Hartman, a professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University, at 9 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 7, at “The Garage” in Smith Warehouse, Bay 4. 

-- Panel discussions on global histories; slavery, racism and capitalism; black political thought; and sexuality and the state on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 6 and 7. 

Franklin’s son, John Whittington Franklin, and William Chafe, professor emeritus of history at Duke and co-chair of the John Hope Franklin Centenary Committee, will provide closing remarks at noon Saturday, Nov. 7, in “The Garage” at Smith Warehouse. 

For a full schedule of speakers and to register for the symposium, visit

Also in November, John Gartrell, director of the John Hope Franklin Research Center, will present “John Hope Franklin: The Global Scholar,” an account of the historian’s global travels and scholarship. The event will take place at noon Wednesday, Nov. 18, at the John Hope Franklin Center. 

An orchid show at the Doris Duke Center in Sarah P. Duke Gardens, Nov. 21-22, will highlight Franklin’s love of the plant species. The Triangle Orchid Society helped organize “Fall for Orchids,” which includes several workshops on growing and caring for orchids. For more information, visit

For more information on the John Hope Franklin Centenary, including updates and a complete listing of events, visit