Tag Archives: civil rights

John Hope Franklin

by Ethel Mortenson Davis

John Hope Franklin
he and his mother
boarding a train
and getting on a white coach
by accident.

“They stopped the train
and threw us off.”

He was six years old,
crying and afraid,
but his mother told him
that he was as good
as anyone else
in the whole world,
and that he shouldn’t
waste his energy crying,
but instead use it
to prove his worth.

John Hope went on
to get a PhD from Harvard,
rewriting American-African history.

In 1934 he handed
Franklin Roosevelt a petition
against the Cordie Cheek lynching,
marched for civil rights
in Montgomery Alabama in 1965,
testified against Robert Bork’s
nomination to the Supreme Court in 1987,
and won the Medal of Freedom in 1995.

He recently said,
“when I reached 80 years old
I thought it would change,
but instead I’m insulted every day
of my life.”

Copyright © 2010, I Sleep Between the Moons of New Mexico

Notes: A “quiet lynching” is how Sheriff Claude Godwin described the hanging of Cord Cheek, a twenty-year-old African American. Cheek was accused of, but never indicted for, attacking an eleven-year-old white girl. When the Maury County,Tennessee grand jury refused to indict Cheek for the alleged attack, residents took matters in their own hands in 1933. Franklin’s testimony during the confirmation of conservative Robert Bork to the Supreme Court in 1987 helped lead to Bork’s failure to gain confirmation by the United States Senate.


Filed under Ethel Mortenson Davis, Poetry