Mirror to America The Autobiography of John Hope Franklin

John Hope Franklin

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

0374530475

9780374530471

Trade Paperback

416 Pages

$28.00

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A New York Times Notable Book
A San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year


John Hope Franklin lived through America's most defining twentieth-century transformation, the dismantling of legally-protected racial segregation. A renowned scholar, he has explored that transformation in its myriad aspects, notably in his bestseller, From Slavery to Freedom. Born in 1915, he, like every other African American, could not participate: he was evicted from whites-only train cars, confined to segregated schools, threatened—once with lynching—and consistently met with racism's denigration of his humanity. Yet he managed to receive a Ph.D. from Harvard, become the first black historian to assume a full-professorship at a white institution, Brooklyn College, be appointed chair of the University of Chicago's history department and, later, John B. Duke Professor at Duke University. He has reshaped the way African American history is understood and taught and became one of the world's most celebrated historians, garnering over 130 honorary degrees. But Franklin's participation was much more fundamental than that.
 
From his effort in 1934 to hand President Franklin Roosevelt a petition calling for action in response to the Cordie Cheek lynching, to his 1997 appointment by President Clinton to head the President's Initiative on Race, and continuing to the present, Franklin has influenced with determination and dignity the nation's racial conscience. Whether aiding Thurgood Marshall's preparation for arguing Brown v. Board in 1954, marching to Montgomery, Alabama, in 1965, or testifying against Robert Bork's nomination to the Supreme Court in 1987, Franklin has pushed the national conversation on race towards humanity and equality, a life-long effort that earned him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, in 1995. Intimate, at times revelatory, Mirror to America chronicles Franklin's life and this nation's racial transformation in the 20th century, and is a powerful reminder of the extent to which the problem of America remains the problem of color.

REVIEWS

Praise for Mirror to America

"Among a handful of scholars who have changed the way Americans view their past . . . Franklin, now 90 years old, has spent his career exposing the bigotry that once dominated American intellectual life and continues to infect society at large. His scholarship is his weapon . . . Mirror to America is a riveting and bitterly candid memoir . . . As a public intellectual, widely quoted in the media, [Franklin] spoke out against what he saw as the federal government's retreat from civil rights during the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. In 1997, Bill Clinton chose him to lead the advisory board of the President's Initiative on Race. Hoping to begin a public dialogue on issues of equality and justice, Franklin found only frustration, as critics mocked the committee for its political correctness . . . Franklin uses Mirror to America to vent his considerable anger at this turn of his events. . . What whites cannot experience and may never understand, he writes, is that 'no matter which side of the bed I chose to wake up on, I would still be a black man in a racially divided America.' . . . That, it appears, is the sad truth of this remarkable book. Franklin has studied his nation for nearly three-quarters of a century. His scholarship tells us that people must be judged by their willingness to remove the obstacles and disadvantages that oppress society's most vulnerable members. His conscience reminds us of how much remains to be done."—David Oshinsky, The New York Times Book Review
 
"John Hope Franklin comes across on these pages as the rarest sort of patriotic American—one who believes this nation should actually live up to its lofty ideals of justice and equality for all . . . An important eyewitness account by a humble scholar confronting racism in his life and that of his country."—Chuck Leddy, San Francisco Chronicle
 
"Mirror to America: The Autobiography of John Hope Franklin is an astonishing beautiful, deeply intelligent record of an extraordinary life. Required reading lest we forget what is possible in a race-based society."—Toni Morrison, winner of the 1993 Nobel Prize in Literature
 
"With his remarkable sense of humanity, renowned historian John Hope Franklin shares his life journey—an odyssey marked by scholarship, public service, and his passionate commitment to improve the condition of African Americans and their relations with their fellow citizens. Through candid stories of Franklin's relentless pursuit of equality, Mirror to America calls upon all Americans to look at our nation's past so that we may destroy the color line that continues to divide our country, and progress together into the future."—President William Jefferson Clinton
 
"This is the most important autobiography of the year! John Hope Franklin is a national treasure. Mirror to America is cause for a national celebration. For me, and countless others, Dr. Franklin is a mentor and role-model without peer, a man whose clear-eyed look into our past improved America's future. Mirror to America will lift the spirit and steel our resolve for the work ahead."—Vernon E. Jordan, Jr., Senior Manager and Director Lazard LTD and author of Vernon Can Read
 
"John Hope Franklin's story is a triumphant one, at once a chronicle of America's progress in civil rights over the past ninety years and a stirring reminder of the determination still needed to confront the country's remaining barriers to racial equality. He has inspired his students for decades; now, with Mirror to America, he offers inspiration to us all."—David N. Dinkins, 106th Mayor, City of New York
 
"John Hope Franklin's Mirror to America is a singular document, a great historian's autobiography that will serve as an indispensable history of our times. Read and reflect, indeed!"—David Levering Lewis, Pulizer Prize winner, Julius Silver University Professor and Professor of History, NYU
 
"John Hope Franklin is a true role model. He embodies the native optimism, i.e., that one can go from slavery to freedom, from ignorance to intelligence, can experience cruelty, yet manifest kindness. In Mirror to America, each citizen can see herself and himself, reflected in the life of this great American."—Maya Angelou
 
"An important work by an eyewitness to the events of the 20th century."—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
 

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BOOK EXCERPTS

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1

No Crystal Stair

LIVING IN A WORLD restricted by laws defining race, as well as creating obstacles, disadvantages, and even superstitions regarding race, challenged my capacities for survival. For ninety years I have witnessed countless men and women likewise meet this challenge. Some bested it; some did not; many had to settle for any accommodation they could. I became a student and eventually a scholar. And it was armed with the tools of scholarship that I strove to dismantle those laws, level those obstacles and disadvantages, and replace superstitions with humane dignity. Along

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  • Mirror to America by John Hope Franklin--Audiobook Excerpt

    Listen to this audiobook excerpt and hear John Hope Franklin read from his book Mirror to America: The Autobiography of John Hope Franklin--ninety years of American history as lived by the nation's preeminent African American historian and winner of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. John Hope Franklin lived through America's most defining twentieth-century transformation, the dismantling of legally-protected racial segregation.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • John Hope Franklin

  • John Hope Franklin is James B. Duke Professor Emeritus of History at Duke University. He has received dozens of major awards including the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his life-long commitment to Civil Rights and the Kluge Prize for the Study of Humanities.
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