Officials on Wednesday dedicated the John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park in Tulsa, Okla., marking the city’s first significant acknowledgement of the Tulsa Race Riot. While named for the late historian and civil rights activist Dr. John Hope Franklin, the $5 million park serves in part as a monument to the racial violence that cost scores of African-Americans their lives in 1921.
“This is all about turning tragedy into triumph,” Julius Pegues told The Wall Street Journal.
Pegues, a 75-year-old African-American engineer whose relatives helped rebuild the Black community in Tulsa, helped lead the effort to build the park near downtown Tulsa, The Wall Street Journal reported.
For community leaders, Franklin’s early life in Tulsa and celebrated career made the pioneering historian an ideal choice as the park’s namesake. Franklin was raised in Tulsa and graduated valedictorian from the city’s Booker T. Washington High School. Unable to attend the University of Oklahoma because of his race, Franklin left the state for college at Fisk University and later earned an M.A. and Ph.D. from Harvard University.
President Bill Clinton awarded Franklin the Medal of Freedom in 1995, the nation’s highest civilian honor, and later tapped him to head the Advisory Board to the President’s Initiative on Race. In the fall of 2008, Franklin traveled to Tulsa to participate in the groundbreaking ceremony for the park to be named in his honor. It was to be his last public appearance before his death in March 2009.
“My father was a historian who believed we must understand our past in order to make informed decisions about our future,” said Dr. John W. Franklin, the historian’s son, in a statement. “His hope was for a place devoted to dialogue, learning and reconciliation. This park helps fulfill that hope.”
Click here to watch Dr. John Hope Franklin’s televised interview on Tulsa and racial reconciliation.