Tuesday, November 3, 2020

The Day Auburn Was Integrated

Auburn was just never going to be kind or even fair to Harold Franklin, Jr. in 1964. The faculty had been warned by Governor George Wallace and by the President of the University to make it as difficult as possible for Auburn's first ever African American student to succeed. His professors were complicit. When Harold and I reminisced thirty years later about his historic entrance into the University, he talked little of his pain and anger or of the blatant discrimination that finally forced him out without a degree. But I knew. And I knew it was all the more painful because the injustice of it all had yet to be addressed.

Then in 2001 the University gave him an honorary doctorate. Fourteen years later a historical marker commemorated the integration of 1964. But still there was no attempt to address the racism Franklin endured. He had to wonder if anyone really wanted to hear his story.

This year, over a half century later, Harold Franklin, Jr, now 86 years old, was invited back to defend his Masters thesis, which he still had. He claimed the time to tell his story. The usual committee of four faculty members was joined by the entire faculty, including the dean of the graduate school who listened, thanked him, and awarded him his Masters Degree in History.

 I didn't see any mention of an official apology in the news release.



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