"I think knowing one's history leads one to act in a more enlightened fashion. I can not imagine how knowing one's history would not urge one to be an activist."
John Hope Franklin spoke these words to Emerge in March 1994.
Historians are in the group of often forgotten, true stars. There is a popular notion that positions societies, nations and worlds upon foundations wide and broad. It is more accurate to understand the development of life over time as positioned upon an inverted pyramid deeply and continuously rooted in an apex containing history. Successive generations must continue to build upon this base of knowledge but first they must build up and around the foundation by making sure they teach the history of all people to all people. They must also hold to the main principle of history. Peoples who build and suppose to live without the base in mind, that life depends on a few things, not many, or this basic sensibility will surely topple or in the very least, suffer many unnecessary hardships.
John Hope Franklin's legacy encompasses the telling of events like it was and is. His legacy added a layer of history of Colored People, Negroes, Blacks and African-Americans.
For my dollars worth, historians have a responsibility to provide the comprehensive context for their subject matter. John Hope Franklin identified another responsibility, though it is not peculiar to historians alone.
You can't have a high standard of scholarship without having a high standard of integrity, because the essence of scholarship is truth." (Winston-Salem Journal, Aug. 6, 1989)
Truth, i.e., accuracy, is the main principle of history. John Hope Franklin is a scholar in this regard. We have a collective responsibility to act upon the information he left to guide and gird us. Inherent in our personal, individual responsibility is seeking knowledge that leads to the truth. Reading history, hearing history, watching history, memorizing history, talking about history and commemorating history with events are empty exercises unless we truly understand history and become activists – those who take continuous action for the few things that matter. When we don't understand, we become inactivists despite the things we do if those things do not first ensure the foundational beliefs and practices are in place that we've learned as a result of history.
Historians such as John Hope Franklin, who have upheld the principles of his craft, have done their part. What will I do? What will I do a little better than I did yesterday?
John Hope Franklin: b. 1-2-1915, d. 3-25-2009