In the fall of 1971, I headed off for the University of Chicago to begin a Ph.D. in history. From my parents' home in upstate New York, the fastest route was to cross into Canada at Niagara Falls and then reenter the United States at Detroit. Long-haired, bearded, and with all my possessions stuffed into an aging car, I fully expect to be hassled at both crossings.
Entering Canada turned out to be pretty simple. I was just passing through, and Canadian customs went smoothly. I sped on through southern Ontario, simultaneously excited and apprehensive at the prospect of graduate study. Crossing back to the United States at Detroit was another matter. At the height of the Vietnam War, I was precisely the kind of bluejeaned, work-shirted, scruffy kid the customs officials could have fun with. As I pulled up to the boarder, the customs officer sternly asked me who I was, where I was coming from, and where I was headed with all that “"stuff" ” in my car. I proudly told him I was headed for the University of Chicago to start graduate school in history. The guard scrutinized me for a moment and then asked, “Do you know John Hope Franklin?” The question astounded me. “He will be my adviser, ” I answered, as I reached for the letter in my briefcase confirming this fact. He looked at me a moment longer and then waved me on.
Thus, before I even arrived at graduate school I had learned something of the mysterious power of John Hope Franklin.
John Hope Franklin ranks as one of our greatest historians. He is, as Stanford's George M. Fredrickson noted, “a historian's historian, a scholar who has stuck to the ideal of a historical truth beyond ideology and done so