Historian hopes service to bring reconciliation
BY RANDY KREHBIEL World Staff Writer
Jun 4, 2000
1/20/13 at 8:45 AM
John Hope Franklin wants to be a solution to a lingering
John Hope Franklin spent only six years in Tulsa. He hasn't been a permanent resident since
But through a long life that has taken him far and made his name famous, Tulsa has always
been Franklin's hometown. So now, in his ninth decade, John Hope Franklin would like to be part
of the solution to a problem that has troubled Tulsa for 79 years.
"If we can't use this to improve relations in the city, we are going to miss a good
opportunity," said Franklin. Specifically, Franklin referred to a race riot reconciliation and
commemoration service scheduled for 5 p.m. Sunday at Mount Zion Baptist Church, 419 N. Elgin Ave. Franklin will be the featured speaker.
More generally, he was talking about the ongoing effort to reconcile the differing and often
conflicting views of the 1921 riot.
"One of the problems (Americans) have with history is that we've never been really honest,"
said Franklin, whose career as a historian includes teaching positions at the University of
Chicago and Duke and the publication of some of this country's most respected books on race and
"We weren't honest about the Civil War. We weren't honest about the war with England," said
Franklin. "When it comes to this, it's much the same."
Franklin might be described as an indirect survivor of the 1921 riot. His father, attorney
B.C. Franklin, came to Tulsa early in 1921 to establish a practice and ready a home while his
family remained behind in Rentiesville.
John Hope Franklin says the family was so close to joining the elder Franklin "we were
sitting on the suitcases" when the riot intervened. The Franklins' new home was destroyed and
so, to a large degree, were B.C. Franklin's finances. For, while B.C. Franklin had more clients
than ever, few of them could actually pay.
As a result, the family stayed in Rentiesville until 1925. John Hope Franklin said his
comments on Sunday will highlight his experiences in Tulsa and some of the changes he has seen
over the years.
"My talk will be somewhat autobiographical," said Franklin. "I'll talk about what it was like
to be without one's father for four years as a result of the riot and my experiences when I
arrived in 1925.
"I also want to point out some things that we have done. The school system, for instance,
has done some very good things. I'm not a pessimist."
Sunday's service will honor the 20 or more churches destroyed in the riot as well as
individual survivors. It is sponsored by the Tulsa Race Riot Commission, Greenwood Cultural
Center, Tulsa Metropolitan Ministry and Greenwood district churches.
The Rev. Byron Williams of Greater Union Baptist Church said people of all races and faiths
are encouraged to attend.
The May 31-June 1, 1921, conflagration resulted in at least 40 deaths and probably more
while destroying most of 35 square blocks. The presence of growing racial tensions is
acknowledged by virtually everyone who has studied the riot.
Randy Krehbiel, World staff writer, can be reached at 581-8365 or via e-mail at