A Tulsa Public Schools committee got it right with its recommendation that a newly merged elementary school be named after John Hope Franklin — a scholar, role model and local hero.
The school will combine prekindergarten through fifth grade students who formerly attended ECDC/Bunche and Gilcrease elementaries.
Names are important. They set up role models and send a message to students about values and character.
The merging schools were both named after significant, accomplished men. Ralph Bunche, a diplomat, received the 1950 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to negotiate peace in the Middle East. He was the first black American to receive the peace prize. Thomas Gilcrease was a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation who used his oil wealth to build the art collection that is the foundation for Tulsa’s Gilcrease Museum.
A district committee received about 80 name suggestions for the combined school and picked out five strong honorees: poet Maya Angelou, civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., President Barack Obama, first lady Michelle Obama and Franklin.
A good argument could be made for any of those, but Franklin had an obvious advantage. He was a Tulsan.
Valedictorian of his Booker T. Washington High School class, Franklin studied at Fisk and Harvard, where he earned his doctorate. He taught and researched history at some of the nation’s most prestigious universities.
His 1947 book, “From Slavery to Freedom” is the seminal work in African American history. In 1995, President Bill Clinton awarded Franklin the Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.
John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park, a memorial to the Tulsa Race Massacre, was named in his honor.
TPS used an inclusive, community-oriented process to come to an appropriate naming choice, which was presented to the school board Monday. A final decision is likely to be made later this month.
We have long admired Franklin, and we’re glad to see the school district headed toward honoring his memory.
Mayor G.T. Bynum speaks during the 1921 Mass Graves Public Oversight Meeting.