John Hope Franklin is remembered not only for his groundbreaking historical studies focusing on the black experience in America, but also for his love of plants, especially orchids, one of which is named after him. So it’s fitting that when the Durham History Museum wanted to honor Franklin, it did so by naming a “History Grove” in his honor.
Located in the gardens on the edge of Durham’s Central Park, the grove was dedicated on Sunday in front of more than 50 friends and Durham residents. Franklin joins 14 other Durham notables in having a historic grove named after them.
The museum partners with local organizations to establish small groves of native trees and plants to honor individuals, families and others who have played a significant role in creating our unique community. Each grove contains seats where visitors can pause and reflect, and each site has a marker naming the winner.
A plaque highlighting Franklin’s accomplishments was placed in the garden last spring, but was dedicated last Sunday. Speakers including representatives from the History Museum, NC Central University and Duke.
“Dr. Franklin was originally from Oklahoma, but Durham is where he and his beloved wife Aurelia call home,” said Stelfanie Williams, vice president of Durham and regional affairs. “Dr. Franklin loved nature and cultivated an extensive collection of orchids, even having one named for him and Aurelia. It is therefore very appropriate to be here among the plants and flowers of this Central Park community space. With this, we honor his memory.
Franklin, who died in 2009, was the James B. Duke Professor Emeritus of History and for seven years served as Professor of Legal History at Duke Law School. As a scholar, John Hope Franklin was perhaps best known for his seminal study “From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African Americans” (1947).
Among his many accomplishments, Franklin was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1995, in recognition of his lifelong work as a teacher and historian of modern racial barriers. President Bill Clinton appointed him Chairman of the Presidential Race Initiative Advisory Council (1997-1999). In 2002, he received the Gold Medal in History, the highest honor awarded by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 2006, he was awarded the John W. Kluge Lifetime Achievement in the Study of Humanity Award by the United States Library of Congress.
To find out more about the History Grove, see the Durham History Museum website.