On Jul. 31, 1968, Charles Schultz created a new character for his Peanuts comic strip. The new character’s name was Franklin, and he was the first African-American to become part of the Peanuts gang 47 years ago. The idea was given to Schultz by a school teacher from Los Angeles, Harriet Glickman, who wrote a letter to Schultz, after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.
Glickman encouraged Schultz, in her letter, to introduce an African-American child to Charlie Brown’s group of friends. Schultz replied that he was concerned that the character may come across as patronizing to African-American people. Glickman gave Schultz a helpful idea, she said she would talk to her African-American friends who had children and ask them what they thought. They were excited about the idea. That is how Franklin Armstrong came to be.
He was presented in the comic strip for the first time on Jul. 31, 1968. Franklin was not just the first African-American Peanuts character, he was the first character introduced that was not white, in any mainstream comic strip. Peanuts decided to declare July 31 ‘National Franklin Day,’ because it is the character’s 47th anniversary as a part of the comic strip. This year is also Peanuts’ 65th anniversary.
Franklin was originally in three comic strips that took place on the beach with Charlie Brown. Then, he became a regular character as Peppermint Patty and Marcie’s classmate. The introduction of the African-American character caused some complaints, and some newspapers refused to run the comic strips that included the new Peanuts child. His first appearances are being rerun the week of July 31 at Go Comics, in celebration of the 47th anniversary.
According to the book, Charles M. Schultz: Conversations, Schultz recalls getting a letter from an editor in the South. The letter said something to the effect, “I don’t mind your new black character, but please do not put him in a classroom with the white kids.”
People are celebrating Franklin’s 47th birthday by posting thoughts, memories, and posters over all of the social media platforms with the hashtag #HappyBirthdayFranklin. This is also promoting his role in the new Peanuts’ movie coming to theaters in the United States in 3D animation on Nov. 6, 2015.
The Peanuts Movie has Snoopy taking on his arch nemesis, The Red Baron. Charlie Brown takes on his own personal quest to win over the Little Red-Haired Girl, who has recently moved into the neighborhood.
According to the Peanuts website, Franklin is the only character from the comic strip who has never said an unkind word about Charlie Brown. He can quote the Old Testament as well as Linus. He also has the least amount of anxieties and obsessions.
Here are some more fun facts about Franklin:
- The Peanuts Movie is the first time he has made an on-screen appearance since 1999.
- His voice has been played by 19 actors in 47 years. Mar Mar will be his voice in The Peanuts Movie.
- He is a great dancer. In several of the television Peanuts specials, he can be seen breakdancing.
- His favorite sport is ice hockey. He is seen practicing in many of the comic strips.
- His first appearance, in the comic strip, was on the beach when he met Charlie Brown.
The first Peanuts comic strip that introduced Franklin was on the beach talking with Charlie Brown. The comic strip seemed uneventful and innocent to Schultz. However, the introduction of the African-American character 47 years ago was revolutionary. The popular, mainstream comic strip had introduced the first African-American character and he was a child that spoke honestly as well as intelligently to a white character.
By Jeanette Smith
Edited By Leigh Haugh
Coming Soon–Franklin Takes Center Stage in a New Peanuts Movie TV Spot
The IN Show News–Peanuts Celebrates 47th Anniversary of Franklin, Its First African-American Character
Tinsel & Tine–Peanuts Celebrates the 47th Anniversary of Franklin, Its First African-American Character
Page Turners Blog–#HappyBirthdayFranklin: The Peanuts Movie
eurweb–Peanuts Celebrates Its First African-American Character, Franklin
Robot 6 Comic Book Resources–Peanuts Declares Today National Franklin Day
University Press of Mississippi–Charles M. Schultz: Conversations
Top Photo and Featured Image Courtesy of Ricky Brigante’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inline Photo Courtesy of Mark Anderson’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License