John Hope Franklin on an Obama Presidency

Esteemed historian reacts to a historic race, one he never believed he would witness in his lifetime.

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Franklin believes "bridging divides" is necessary to heal this country's deep racial wounds, and he has spent a good portion of his lifetime trying to achieve that goal. He chaired President Clinton's 1997 national advisory board on race and is revered as a "moral leader" of the historical profession for his engagement in the pressing issues of the day, his unflagging advocacy of civil rights and his gracious and courtly demeanor.

A life-long educator, Franklin will be honored later this month for his contributions and adherence to academic excellence during a two-day symposium featuring nationally recognized scholars at Duke and beyond.

The celebration is well-earned. Franklin has not only written about history but he's lived it, working on the Brown v. Board of Education case, marching on Washington in 1963, and in Selma in 1965 with Martin Luther King Jr. Most recently, he has taken on reparations.

Last year Franklin urged Congress to pass legislation that would clear the way for survivors of the Tulsa Race Riots of 1921, one of the nation's worst race riots, to sue for reparations.

Viewers can soon catch a glimpse of his brilliance on the big screen in a small part for a film based on the novel Blood Done Signed My Name. The book is about the public lynching of a black man in a small N.C. town. Franklin plays the role of an older man who helps a group of men load a mule on a truck.