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
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.
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.