John Hope Franklin (born January 2, 1915) is a United States historian and past president of the American Historical Association. Professor Emeritus of History at Duke University, he is best known for his work From Slavery to Freedom, first published in 1947, and continuously updated. More than three million copies have been sold. In 1995, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor.
Franklin was born in Rentiesville, Oklahoma and named after John Hope. He graduated from Fisk University in 1935 and earned a doctorate in history in 1941 from Harvard University.
Franklin met and courted Aurelia Whittington at Fisk. After a correspondence and courtship that lasted 10 years, they married on June 11, 1940 at her parent's home in Goldsboro, North Carolina. Their only child, John Whittington Franklin, was born August 24, 1952. Aurelia was a librarian. Their marriage lasted 59 years, until January 27, 1999 when she succumbed to a long illness. 
"My challenge," Franklin says, "was to weave into the fabric of American history enough of the presence of blacks so that the story of the United States could be told adequately and fairly."
In the early 1950s, Franklin served on the NAACP Legal Defense team led by Thurgood Marshall that helped develop the case that led to the 1954 United States Supreme Court decision ending the legal segregation of black and white children in public schools.
Franklin's teaching career began at Fisk University and continued during World War II at St. Augustine's College and North Carolina College. Between 1947 and 1956, he taught at Howard University, and from 1956 until 1964, he chaired the department of history at Brooklyn College. From 1964 through 1982, he served in the history department at the University of Chicago, and as its chair from 1967-70, and as the John Matthews Manly Distinguished Service Professor, 1969-82. In 1983, Franklin was appointed as the James B. Duke Professor of History at Duke University, and in 1985, he took emeritus status. Franklin was also Professor of Legal History at the Duke University Law School from 1985-92:
He was appointed to the Fulbright Board of Foreign Scholarships, 1962-69, and was its chair from 1966-69. He was appointed to the U.S. Delegation to the UNESCO General Conference, Belgrade (1980).
The John Hope Franklin Collection for African and African-American Documentation resides at the Duke University Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library and contains his personal and professional papers. 
Pulitzer Prize winning historian David Levering Lewis said that while he was deciding to become an historian, news came that Franklin, his mentor, had been named departmental chairman at Brooklyn College. "Now that certainly is a distinction. It had never happened before that a person of color had chaired a major history department. That meant a lot to me. If I had doubt about (the) viability of a career in history, that example certainly help put to rest such concerns."
In researching his prize-winning biographies of W.E.B. Du Bois, Lewis said he became aware of Franklin's "courage during that period in the 1950s when Du Bois became an un-person, when many progressives were tarred and feathered with the brush of subversion. John Hope Franklin was a rock; he was loyal to his friends. In the case of W.E.B. Du Bois, Franklin spoke out in his defense, not (about) Du Bois' communism, but of the right of an intellectual to express ideas that were not popular. I find that admirable. It was a high risk to take and we may be heading again into a period when the free concourse of ideas in the academy will have a price put upon it. In the final years of an active teaching career, I will have John Hope Franklin's example of high scholarship, great courage and civic activism." 
On May 20, 2006, Franklin was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters at Lafayette College's 171st Commencement Exercises.
On November 15, 2006, it was announced that Franklin was the third recipient of the John W. Kluge Prize for lifetime achievement in the study of humanity. He will share the prize with Yu Ying-shih.
Franklin has served as president of the American Historical Association (1979), the American Studies Association (1967), the Southern Historical Association (1970), the United Chapters of Phi Beta Kappa (1973-76), and the Organization of American Historians (1975). He has been a member of the board of trustees at Fisk University, the Chicago Public Library, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association.
Franklin has been appointed to serve on national commissions including the National Council of the Humanities, the President's Advisory Commission on Ambassadorial Appointments, and One America: The President's Initiative on Race.
Franklin is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha, the first intercollegiate Greek-letter fraternity established for African Americans. He was an early beneficiary of the fraternity's Foundation Publishers which provides financial support and fellowship for writers addressing African American issues since it was established in 1933.
Paul Finkelman, "John Hope Franklin," in Robert Allen Rutland, ed. Clio's Favorites: Leading Historians of the United States, 1945-2000 University of Missouri Press. (2000) pp 49-67