๐ŸŽˆ Happy Birthday, Franklin! ๐ŸŽˆ

๐ŸŽย Today is the 50th birthday of a very special young man.ย  Iโ€™m sure you all know of him, but you may not know the story of how Franklin came to be.ย  I came across several versions of this story yesterday and thought it a perfect way to wish forever-young Franklin a very ๐ŸŽˆHappy Birthday! ๐ŸŽˆ

 

On July 31, 1968, a young, black man was reading the newspaper when he saw something that he had never seen before. With tears in his eyes, he started running and screaming throughout the house, calling for his mom. He would show his mom, and, she would gasp, seeing something she thought she would never see in her lifetime. Throughout the nation, there were similar reactions.

What they saw was Franklin Armstrong’s first appearance on the iconic comic strip “Peanuts.” Franklin would be 50 years old this year.

Harriet-Glickman

Harriet Glickman &ย Marleik Walker, the voice of Franklin in The Peanuts Movie

Franklin was “born” after a school teacher, Harriet Glickman, had written a letter to creator Charles M. Schulz after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot to death outside his Memphis hotel room.

Glickman, who had kids of her own and having worked with kids, was especially aware of the power of comics among the young. โ€œAnd my feeling at the time was that I realized that black kids and white kids never saw themselves [depicted] together in the classroom,โ€ she would say.

franklin-5She would write, โ€œSince the death of Martin Luther King, ‘Iโ€™ve been asking myself what I can do to help change those conditions in our society which led to the assassination and which contribute to the vast sea of misunderstanding, hate, fear and violence.’โ€

Glickman asked Schulz if he could consider adding a black character to his popular comic strip, which she hoped would bring the country together and show people of color that they are not excluded from American society.

She had written to others as well, but the others feared it was too soon, that it may be costly to their careers, that the syndicate would drop them if they dared do something like that.

charles schultzCharles Schulz did not have to respond to her letter, he could have just completely ignored it, and everyone would have forgotten about it. But, Schulz did take the time to respond, saying he was intrigued with the idea, but wasn’t sure whether it would be right, coming from him, he didn’t want to make matters worse, he felt that it may sound condescending to people of color.

Glickman did not give up, and continued communicating with Schulz, with Schulz surprisingly responding each time. She would even have black friends write to Schulz and explain to him what it would mean to them and gave him some suggestions on how to introduce such a character without offending anyone. This conversation would continue until one day, Schulz would tell Glickman to check her newspaper on July 31, 1968.First FranklinOn that date, the cartoon, as created by Schulz, shows Charlie Brown meeting a new character, named Franklin. Other than his color, Franklin was just an ordinary kid who befriends and helps Charlie Brown. Franklin also mentions that his father was “over at Vietnam.”

franklin-7At the end of the series, which lasted three strips, Charlie invites Franklin to spend the night one day so they can continue their friendship.

Franklin-3There was no big announcement, there was no big deal, it was just a natural conversation between two kids, whose obvious differences did not matter to them. And, the fact that Franklin’s father was fighting for this country was also a very strong statement by Schulz.

Although Schulz never made a big deal over the inclusion of Franklin, there were many fans, especially in the South, who were very upset by it and that made national news. One Southern editor even said, โ€œI donโ€™t mind you having a black character, but please donโ€™t show them in school together.โ€Franklin-2It would eventually lead to a conversation between Schulz and the president of the comic’s distribution company, who was concerned about the introduction of Franklin and how it might affect Schulz’ popularity. Many newspapers during that time had threatened to cut the strip.

Schulz’ response: “I remember telling Larry at the time about Franklin — he wanted me to change it, and we talked about it for a long while on the phone, and I finally sighed and said, “Well, Larry, let’s put it this way: Either you print it just the way I draw it or I quit. How’s that?”

Eventually, Franklin became a regular character in the comic strips, and, despite complaints, Franklin would be shown sitting in front of Peppermint Patty at school and playing center field on her baseball team.franklin-4More recently, Franklin is brought up on social media around Thanksgiving time, when the animated 1973 special “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” appears. Some people have blamed Schulz for showing Franklin sitting alone on the Thanksgiving table, while the other characters sit across him. But, Schulz did not have the same control over the animated cartoon on a television network that he did on his own comic strip in the newspapers.FRANKLIN, LINUS, SALLY, CHARLIE BROWN, PEPPERMINT PATTY, SNOOPY AND MARCIEBut, he did have control over his own comic strip, and, he courageously decided to make a statement because of one brave school teacher who decided to ask a simple question.

Peanuts gangGlickman would explain later that her parents were “concerned about others, and the values that they instilled in us about caring for and appreciating everyone of all colors and backgrounds โ€” this is what we knew when we were growing up, that you cared about other people . . . And so, during the years, we were very aware of the issues of racism and civil rights in this country [when] black people had to sit at the back of the bus, black people couldnโ€™t sit in the same seats in the restaurants that you could sit . . . Every day I would see, or read, about black children trying to get into school and seeing crowds of white people standing around spitting at them or yelling at them . . . and the beatings and the dogs and the hosings and the courage of so many people in that time.”

Because of Glickman, because of Schulz, people around the world were introduced to a little boy named Franklin. – The Jon S. Randal Peace Pageletter from Schultz

33 thoughts on “๐ŸŽˆ Happy Birthday, Franklin! ๐ŸŽˆ

  1. Jill, what a great story and important glimpse at Americana. The kindness and courage of Charles Schultz is astounding. Franklin’s mother deserves kudos for her persistence.

    The resistance that Schultz got is telling. I guess the thought process is you cannot show races together because who knows what it will lead to. About that time, I remember Harry Belafonte getting pushback on his plan to show a multi-racial dance troupe on TV. Prejudice dies slowly. Keith

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Keith! I’m glad you liked the story! Your last sentence … ‘Prejudice dies slowly’ … I have to ask if it ever rally dies, or merely goes into a dormant state for a generation or two? Given what we see today … I honestly think there is more prejudice today than there was when Franklin made his debut in 1968.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jill, you are right, it seems to always be simmering on the back burner. It needs to be spotlighted and shamed if necessary. We have a President who uses prejudice to divide. David Brooks said yesterday, local cities are less prejudiced than legislators have become, due in large part to the racial profile of the President’s party. Most Republicans are not white supremacists, but almost all white supremacists are Republican. With seven candidates who claim to be such, that is a shame. The key test will they get elected. Keith

        Liked by 1 person

        • I think that none of those 7 will be elected, but … I’ve been wrong before. I didn’t think Trump could possibly be elected, and look what happened there. And when I look at how close Roy Moore came to winning a senate seat … it is frightening. In the current climate, I wonder how Barack Obama ever got elected twice! Sigh. Depressing, isn’t it?

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          • Jill, I am hopeful that the Koch Bros. will help squelch people like this and Trump. For all of his marketing skill, for him to kick the Kochs was a very poor move. They will silently make their will known. I still do not care for what they do and how they do it. The same goes for the POTUS. Keith

            Liked by 2 people

  2. Franklin’s debut in the Peanuts cartoon strip came shortly before my graduation from nursing school, I remember it well. The first young girl of color in the school’s history was a year behind me. She framed the strip and hung it on the wall of her room. Charles M. Schultz and Peanuts are beyond loved by myself and all of my children. Already Benjamin is a fan and The Peanuts Movie is a favorite. My eldest Daughter may well be one of the greatest fans ever. Every December, she goes in search of the most perfectly imperfect Charlie Brown Christmas Tree. To say that she owns almost every book, movie, toy, etc. is not an exaggeration. Needless to add, this milestone in the history of Peanuts is well known and appreciated. We all owe a debt of gratitude to the persistence of Harriet Glickman back in 1968. I’ll share a quote that stands framed on eldest Daughter’s desk : “In the book of life’s questions, the answers aren’t in the back.” – Charles M. Schultz. Thank-you for this beautiful post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was just returning the frame to the desk and realized that yet again, I always spell Schulz with a “t”! No matter how many times I try to type it correctly, I get it wrong…oh wait, I finally got it right!

      Liked by 1 person

    • I am so glad you liked this … I saw it and couldn’t resist posting it! I love the quote! So very true! Schulz was a pioneer of sorts, being willing to tread where others feared to go. Hugs to Benjamin! And you!

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  3. Glad Schultz did what other cartoonists of the day could not… Put the issue of doing something to help the social condition, over his own reputation, and loss of revenue from his work. A man of good moral upstanding in a world that often mocks such people.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great post Jill, honouring Franklin’s ‘mother’ and Charles Schulz too! A great deal there I did not know about, thank you.
    He is one of the nicest characters around….. ‘All I know is, any rule that makes a little girl cry is a bad rule’- classic statement.
    Happy birthday Franklin!

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