Franklin Research Center News
In 1956, John Hope Franklin was appointed Professor and Chair of the History Department at Brooklyn College, a predominantly White institution. Franklin’s appointment marked the first time that an African American was appointed chair of any department at a traditionally White institution. The New York Times found Franklin’s appointment so newsworthy that on February 15, 1956, they published an announcement with his photograph on the front page. The headline read: “Negro Educator Chosen to Head Department at Brooklyn College. Howard University Professor Will be First of Race to Hold That Rank Here.” The article noted that Franklin was the first African-American chair of any academic department in the New York State college system.Washington Evening Start Article, 1956
Franklin was a professor at Brooklyn College from 1956 to 1964 and served as chairman of the History Department over that period. During his tenure at Brooklyn College, Franklin published three important books: The Militant South, 1800-1860 (1956), Reconstruction after the Civil War (1961), and The Emancipation Proclamation (1963).John Hope Franklin describes his experiences living as an African American in Brooklyn. Brooklyn College Newsletter, 1963
After leaving Brooklyn College, Franklin maintained strong ties with the institution. In 1981, he was invited to be the commencement speaker, and in 1990 he delivered the second Charles R. Lawrence II memorial lecture of the Department of Sociology and President’s Office of Brooklyn College.
After Franklin’s death, in an obituary published in The New York Times, Senator Barbara Boxer, Democrat of California, one of Franklin’s former students, said of him: “Having John Hope Franklin at Brooklyn College in the 1960’s was like having a real star in our midst. Students who were lucky enough to get into his class bragged about him from morning until night.”
This series is apart of Duke University’s John Hope Franklin@100: Scholar, Activist, Citizen year-long celebration of the life and legacy of Dr. John Hope Franklin
Submitted by Gloria Ayee, Franklin Research Center Intern
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Aurelia Whittington and John Hope Franklin first met in 1931 when they were students at Fisk University in Nashville, TN. The couple Aurelia was introduced to John Hope by his sister, Anne Franklin, who was her classmate and remained college sweethearts throughout their time together at Fisk. Aurelia and John Hope were married on June 11, 1940.Aurelia Whittington Franklin, 1950s
Aurelia Elizabeth Whittington was born in Goldsboro, North Carolina in July 1915. Her father, Samuel W. Whittington was a U.S. Postal railroad clerk, and her mother, Bertha Kincaid Whittington, was a piano teacher. After graduating from Booker T. Washington High School in Goldsboro in 1931, she enrolled as a student at Fisk University, where she majored in English. Upon her graduation from Fisk University in 1935, Aurelia taught English in schools around eastern North Carolina, and further pursued her education. She graduated from Hampton Library School in 1939, and later earned a Master’s degree in Library Science from Catholic University.
Aurelia was a devoted homemaker, but also served as John Hope’s adviser and editor, and was often by his side helping him navigate the library stacks when he was doing research.John Hope and Aurelia Franklin attend a banquet in Durham, NC, 1944
Aurelia and John Hope had one biological son, John Whittington Franklin, in 1952. The couple fostered Bouna Ndiaye, a student from Senegal, who they later formally adopted.John Hope and Aurelia Franklin in Cambridge, England,1962
In her later years, Aurelia faced many health challenges and her husband took an active role in providing care for her. Aurelia passed away in 1999 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
This series is apart of Duke University’s John Hope Franklin@100: Scholar, Activist, Citizen year-long celebration of the life and legacy of Dr. John Hope Franklin.
Submitted by Gloria Ayee, Franklin Research Center Intern
While I processed a collection of correspondence between two lovers, a handful of letters stuck out. Martha Simpson, then Martha Eleanor Booker, a young African American woman working on her teaching degree at Elizabeth City Teachers College, had a penchant for writing in code. Paul Simpson, her love interest, did not share the same inclination, but did indulge her in his responses. As I read through the letters, the code used in three of them piqued my curiosity. My search revealed that the code used seems to be a form of carnival Pig Latin, also known as Czarny, Z-Latin, or Carny (Hautzinger 30).
Martha first sneaks in her secret code at the closing of a letter from January 10, 1951, with a little taunt, “Ha, ha, I bet you can’t read it.” Paul’s response to this letter, dated January 13, 1951, briefly acknowledges that he, indeed, could read her secret language with the opening line “Dizear Cizheré,” before continuing his letter unencumbered by the extra z’s.
But Martha doesn’t give up. She continues the code in a response from January 17, 1951, written half in this “z-language,” eventually switching back to conventional English.
Martha’s next letter clearly was not on pink paper (did you catch that one?), but she did keep on with her code. The secret language was formed by inserting iz after the first consonant, and if there was no consonant present, beginning the word with biz. In linguistic circles, this is known as iz-infixation and has been linked to rap and hip-hop music. Examples include Frankie Smith’s 1981 hits Double Dutch Bus and Slang Thang (or Slizang Thizang), both of which boast the iz-infix in their lyrics. More recent examples include work by Snoop Dogg and Kanye West (Viau 1). But these letters come decades before the iz-infix made it big in music, and the question remains: Where did this secret language come from?
We think the answer is this: carnival slang. Published accounts of Carny go back to 1926 (Russell and Murray 401), well before Martha was writing to Paul. It was a language immersed in the subculture of the carnival, intended to distinguish between outsiders and the true Carnies, given the questionable legality of the carnival. Sarah Hautzinger describes it as a dialect that “rearranges English to make it unintelligible to the unenlightened ear” (32). In Czarny, “a Z-sound is inserted after the first consonant, and if the word begins with a vowel, before the vowel sound, in the first syllable only” (32). This certainly seems a lot like the iz-infixes found in the letters between Martha and Paul. Rumor has it that this carny talk found its way into popular culture years later.
Whether or not their secret language was descended from Z-Latin, the coded (and uncoded) correspondence between Martha and Paul D. Simpson provides an interesting read. Recently acquired by the Rubenstein, these roughly 300 letters detail the love, life, and struggles of a young African American couple on their way to becoming teachers.
For more information on the Martha and Paul D. Simpson Papers, check out the collection guide.
For further reading on Carny Latin and the iz-infix, see:
Post contributed by Janice Hansen, a Ph.D. student in Germanic Languages & Literature and Technical Services intern at The Rubenstein.
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The Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture, the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture, the John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History, and the History of Medicine Collections will award up to $1,000 per recipient to fund travel and other expenses related to visiting the Rubenstein Library. The Rubenstein also offers the Eleanore and Harold Jantz Fellowship, a $1500 award for researchers whose work would benefit from use of the Jantz Collections.
The grants are open to undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, independent scholars, artists, and activists who live more than 100 miles from Durham, NC and whose research projects would benefit from access to collections held by one of the centers.
More details—and the grant application—may be found on our grants website. Recipients will be announced in April 2015.
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