Against the Odds: Scholars Who Challenged Racism in the Twentieth Century

By Benjamin P. Bowser; Louis Kushnick et al. | Go to book overview

4
Writing about African Americans
in American History

The Career of John Hope Franklin

I was born in the small town of Rentiesville, Oklahoma, which is seventeen miles south of Muskogee and sixty-five miles southeast of Tulsa. It was an all-black village. My father moved to Rentiesville in 1912 and found it lacking in opportunities, not to mention amenities. He was postmaster, justice of the peace, notary public, and president of the Rentiesville Trading Company. Out of all that he did, he still could not make a living. So he knew very early on that we would have to leave. My mother taught school, and this helped feed and clothe us, and send my older sister and brother to private school.

Living in an all-black town had its advantages. The only time we were exposed to racial prejudice was in traveling on the railroad to Checotah, five miles south of Rentiesville. We had no other means of transportation to and from Rentiesville. The first racial incident that I can remember was when my mother, sister, and I went to Checotah. As the train approached Rentiesville, we flagged it to stop. It barely did. So we got on wherever we could. It so happened that the coach where we boarded was for whites only. We did not know it at the time and the train was already moving. When my mother sat down, the conductor told her that she was in the wrong car. It made no difference that this was the only place that we could get on. She told him that we could not go back to the coach for blacks since the train was already moving. The conductor stopped the train. We thought that he did it so we could move to the segregated coach. But he put us off the train. By this point, we were well into the woods and had to walk back to Rentiesville. I must have been about seven years old. I wrote about my early years in Rentiesville for my 1994 Cosmos Club (Washington, D.C.) lecture entitled “Vintage Years: The First Decade.”

In 1921 my father moved to Tulsa. We would have joined him when

-63-

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Against the Odds: Scholars Who Challenged Racism in the Twentieth Century
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents *
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Against the Odds *
  • Introduction - Moving the Race Mountain 1
  • Notes *
  • References *
  • 1 - A World Libertarian 20
  • 2 - Portrait of a Liberation Scholar 27
  • 3 - A Lifetime of Inquiry 41
  • 4 - The Career of John Hope Franklin 63
  • 5 - The Work and Reflections of St. Clair Drake 86
  • 6 - Blending Scholarship with Public Service 111
  • Notes 122
  • References and Further Reading *
  • 7 - Some Personal Reflections of Hylan Lewis 123
  • 8 - An Architect of Social Change 147
  • Notes 156
  • References *
  • 9 - The Person, Scholar, and Activist 158
  • Notes *
  • References *
  • 10 - Vindication in Speaking Truth to Power 193
  • Notes *
  • 11 - A. Sivanandan as Activist, Teacher, and Rebel 227
  • References 242
  • Conclusion - Of Jim Crow Old and New 243
  • Notes *
  • References *
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