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This is the first honorary OSU degree ever presented by OSU-Tulsa.

OSU-Tulsa presents John W. Franklin with honorary doctorate

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Media Contact: Aaron Campbell | Communications Coordinator | 918-594-8046 |

Oklahoma State University-Tulsa presented an honorary doctorate of humane letters to historian and researcher John Whittington Franklin during its spring graduation ceremony May 10 at ONEOK Field.

Franklin is an accomplished scholar of history and cultural studies, museum professional and member of multiple boards of prestigious cultural institutions as a specialist in the history and traditions of communities of the African Diaspora. Franklin's distinguished career at the Smithsonian Institution began in Senegal in the 1970s and has included the organization of seminars, symposia and cultural heritage festivals throughout the world.

From 2005 until his retirement from the Smithsonian in 2019, he was Senior Manager in the Office of External Affairs at the National Museum of African American History and Culture. As one of that museum’s first employees he played a key role in the design, development and operations of the museum.

“It is such an honor to receive a degree from OSU Tulsa,” Franklin said. “I think of my Great-grandparents David and Millie Franklin, my grandparents BC and Mollie Franklin and my parents John Hope and Aurelia Franklin who could not have studied at Oklahoma State in their times. They are smiling now!”

For over 50 years, Franklin has focused his efforts on the critical understanding of African history and African American history as well as the truths, complexities and impacts of the African Diaspora. His work in France related to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, French colonization and the contemporary French-speaking world is internationally recognized.

Franklin is also a community organizer and activist who has advanced the trailblazing work of his father, preeminent historian John Hope Franklin, and his grandfather Buck Colbert Franklin, one of the first African American lawyers in Oklahoma. Attorney Franklin witnessed the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre and legally represented many survivors of the Massacre.

“John W. Franklin has dedicated his life and career to the progression of truth and healing,” said Pamela Fry, president of OSU-Tulsa. “As we approach the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre, I find it especially important to honor Mr. Franklin, who has spent decades shining a light on a neglected dimension of the African American experience in the nineteenth and early twentieth century.”

Franklin received the doctorate during the 2021 graduation ceremony, where he delivered a virtual commencement speech.  This is the first honorary OSU degree ever presented by OSU-Tulsa.

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