NCCU, Duke to Host Symposium on Historian John Hope Franklin’s "From Slavery to Freedom"

Posted August 31, 2023, 9:47AM
Dr. John Hope Franklin in his Durham home.

Registration open for Oct. 24-25 event featuring leading scholars in history and African American studies

North Carolina Central University (NCCU) and Duke University and will host a symposium Oct. 24-25 on one of the most definitive and enduring books written about the experience of Black people in America.

Written by John Hope Franklin, a pioneering scholar who taught at both Durham institutions and whose scholarship was key to launching the discipline of African American studies, “From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African Americans,” is still relevant more than 75 years after it was first published. 

The symposium, “From Slavery to Freedom: From Durham to the World, Commemorating More than Three-Quarters of a Century of Publication,” will honor the legacy of Franklin (1915-2009) and his seminal work. The two-day event, which is free and open to the public, features panel discussions and receptions on both campuses. Registration is required on the event website.

The symposium will feature leading scholars in history and African American studies from across the United States reflecting on the history of Durham, Duke, NCCU, scholarship in the Jim Crow South, the legacies of Black historiography and the telling of a more inclusive American history.

Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, Victor S. Thomas Professor of History and African American Studies at Harvard University and co-author of the current edition of “From Slavery to Freedom,” will deliver the keynote address Oct. 25 at Duke.

The first day of the symposium will take place 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 24, at the NCCU Student Center, 500 Nelson St., in Durham, followed by an evening reception and panel from 6:30 to 9 p.m. titled, “Reflections on John Hope Franklin: Mentor, Teacher and Scholar” in the same location.

On Wednesday, Oct. 25, the symposium will move to the Gothic Reading Room of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library on Duke’s West Campus, with panels from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and a concluding reception afterwards.

A traveling exhibition, “John Hope Franklin: Imprint of American Scholar,” curated by the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History & Culture at Duke, will be on display at both venues.

Published in 1947, “From Slavery to Freedom” traces the story of Black Americans, starting from their ancestral roots in Africa through the centuries of enslavement in the Western world, to their place and contributions in modern America.

The book, in its 10th edition, has endured as an authoritative work of history, written by one of its most respected practitioners. Franklin originally wrote the book while a professor of history at NCCU. But he continued updating and working on it throughout his life, even after he came out of retirement to serve as the James B. Duke Professor of History at Duke from 1982 to 1985. Franklin was also professor of legal history at the Duke School of Law (1985-1992) and professor emeritus of history (1985-2009).

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