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erica : 1 KAN54;igi nlag i;:>ieV ,NAVIV,Vrz.fs 44.x .74.. –S,M,,Ara ri Kf.-4 -40,MMNST-k,Va Wrage WP,’WV-4″k 7Nvit”’ ‘ 4,;!: *4t , .” . twx- himself while he researched and wrote. Ever driven, and despite teaching five classes a semester at St. Augustine’s College in Raleigh, North Carolina, he completed his landmark study of Free Blacks in North Carolina, published in 1943 two years after his Harvard graduation. By any measure, Franklin was on a fast track. Although never derailed, his progress was slowed by the daily difficulties of being black in a segregated society. Libraries and librarians did not know what to make of him. The Navy refused his post-Pearl Harbor offer to volunteer because it would not enlist him except in a menial post. The War Department did not deign to respond to his application to work on its combat-history project. These personal affronts soon gained historic force as the war wound down, and he began to craft From Slavery to Freedom. Setting a blistering pace, he wrote more than 250,000 words in less than two years, while maintaining a heavy teaching load. Its publication changed his professional life. Howard University offered him a coveted position that he accepted while assuming that this new post would be a dead-end precisely because the school was considered “The Capstone of Negro Education.” He was wrong, for by the mid-1950s he was tapped to chair the Brooklyn College history department, and in another decade migrated to the University of Chicago. From Slavery to Freedom helped him break the academic color line. It also offered a profound reminder of a people’s pain, loss, and suffering. “In the planning and writing of my work,” Franklin observes with a nod to Gibbon, “I had witnessed more than five hundred years of human history pass before my eyes. I had seen one slave ship after another from Portugal, Spain, France, Holland, England, and the United States pile black human cargo into its bowels [and then] dump my ancestors at New World ports.” Their lives were in constant jeopardy: I had seen them beat black men until they themselves were weary and rape black women until their ecstasy was spent leaving their brutish savagery exposed. I had heard them shout, ‘Give us liberty or give us death,’ and not mean a word of it. I had seen them measure out medication or education for a sick or ignorant white child and ignore a black child similarly situated. I had seen them lynch black men and distribute their ears, fingers, and other parts as souvenirs to the ghoulish witnesses. I had seen it all, and in the seeing I had become JANUARY 27, 2006 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 23