- The Washington Times - Friday, September 21, 2007

John Hope Franklin made his first trip to the National Archives in 1939 as a Harvard graduate student to research freed slaves from North Carolina. On Tuesday evening, he was back in architect John Russell Pope’s neoclassical building, being honored with the fourth annual Records of Achievement Award from the Foundation for the National Archives.

“I never expected this of the Archives, but I’ll take it,” Mr. Franklin said during his remarks in a crowded auditorium. He recalled trips to the building to research groundbreaking books on black history as “liberating.” The Archives’ “records have never been so open or so free.”

The award given to the 92-year-old scholar and civil rights activist was fitting: a framed reproduction of the resolution leading to the 14th Amendment, to grant citizenship to black Americans. Before accepting it, Mr. Franklin joined Reps. Ralph Regula and Norman Dicks, Sen. Lamar Alexander and other guests at a cocktail reception.

Many of the history buffs in attendance acknowledged their debt to the nonagenarian’s wisdom. “You can’t scratch the surface of American history without bumping into John Hope Franklin,” said Ken Burns, who included Mr. Franklin in three of his documentary films.

“He’s the nicest great man you’ll ever meet,” said Roger Wilkins, who is writing a book on race and education.

“He is helping us to envision the mission for our museum,” said Lonnie Bunch, director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African-American History and Culture.

Emceeing the evening were archivist Allen Weinstein and foundation president Tom Wheeler, who praised Mr. Franklin’s 1947 book “Slavery to Freedom” as “lifting the shroud on America’s original sin.”

After the award ceremony, guests moved into the rotunda for a dinner of tuna nicoise, beef tenderloin, cheese tart and apple crumble before toasting the honoree with champagne. They included the chief of protocol, Ambassador Nancy Brinker; Frank Keating; Sharon Percy Rockefeller; Anne Wexler; Strobe Talbot and his wife, Brooke Shearer; Riley Temple; Morton Kondracke; Roger Mudd; and John Fox Sullivan.

In conversation during the evening, Mr. Franklin said he was still working, collecting some of his essays for another book. “He’s tried to retire three times,” said his son John Franklin. “It just never happens.”

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