Auburn University’s First Black Student Honored With Historic Marker

by Duke Magazine

Harold A. Franklin, the first Black student to attend Auburn University, will be honored with a desegregation marker dedication ceremony, NBC News reports.

The honor was bestowed on Franklin two months after his passing.

Franklin’s son, Harold Franklin Jr., Auburn University President Jay Gogue, Auburn Board of Trustees member Elizabeth Huntley and Kenneth Kelly, a 1990 Auburn graduate and chairman and CEO of First Independence Bank of Detroit are all scheduled to attend the ceremony.

Franklin integrated Auburn on Jan. 4, 1964, as a Graduate School enrollee. He went on to a successful 27-year career as an educator, specializing in higher education after leaving Auburn in 1965. He earned a master’s degree in international studies from the University of Denver and taught history at several HBCUs including Alabama State University, North Carolina A&T State University, Tuskegee Institute, and Talladega College before retiring in 1992.

In 2001, Auburn awarded Franklin with an honorary Doctor of Arts; and in 2015, the university erected a historic marker near the library where he first registered for his first classes.

Franklin remembered that when he completed his coursework he was not allowed to defend his thesis because racism was embedded in the DNA of the school.

“Each time, I would carry my thesis to be proofread, they’d find an excuse,” Franklin said in an interview with the Washington Post. “Sometimes, I didn’t dot an ‘i.’ One of the professors told me, ‘Yours has to be perfect because you are Black, and people will be reading yours.’ ”

“I told him I had been to the thesis room and read the theses by white kids,” Franklin recalled. “Theirs were not perfect. I couldn’t understand why they couldn’t accept mine.”

Over fifty years later, the university finally corrected its massive error and Franklin participated in the school’s 2020 commencement exercises.

The ceremony in honor of Harold Franklin will take place on Thursday at the Ralph Brown Draughon Library on Auburn’s campus.

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