Peanuts character Franklin marks 40th birthday

The Times Union marks that 40 years ago last Thursday was the first time the Peanut character Franklin appeared in print and its significance in race relations in America during that time of U.S. history.

Franklin was never as big a star as Linus, Lucy, Snoopy, Schroeder or Pigpen. He didn’t have a last name and wouldn’t even win a contest for best Afro among the “Peanuts” characters. But as the first black in the most successful comic strip of all time, Franklin is the greatest black cartoon figure in American history. Even though it was the end of the racially charged 1960s when Schulz introduced Franklin, the cartoonist wasn’t attempting any kind of political statement, and Franklin being darker than his friends was never something commented on in the strip. Franklin’s debut and the appearance a few months later of The Jackson 5, fronted by the otherworldly talented Michael Jackson, was a wonderful representation of black adolescents. Franklin proved to be wise and dignified and has never done anything he should have to apologize for except for the strange dance he did with the other kids in, “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”

Like Charlie, he’s close to his grandfather and, like Linus, he quotes the Old Testament. His father was in Vietnam and, most of all, Franklin has a good heart. Nowhere was that more evident than in a 1969 strip in which Peppermint Patty cries because of shoes she’s required to wear to school. Franklin says, “All I know is any rule that makes a little girl cry has to be a bad rule.”

2 thoughts on “Peanuts character Franklin marks 40th birthday

  1. Looks like the Times Union’s had some cutbacks in the fact-checking department. Franklin was not in “A Charlie Brown Christmas”. Couldn’t have been. “Charlie Brown Christmas” is 43 years old this year.

    I think they got him mixed up with “5”, who does have a lot of explaining to do over that dance he was doing at the school auditorium…

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