Good grief! Franklin’s 47th!!!
It happened on a beach on July 31, 1968.
The white boy’s little sister threw his beach ball into the water. The Black boy who was swimming retrieved the ball and took it back to him. The white boy thanked the Black boy, and that was how Charlie Brown met Franklin in “Peanuts.
With that appearance, Franklin became the first Black character in Charles Schulz’s magnificent comic strip.
©  Peanuts Worldwide LLC
HAPPY 45TH FRANKLIN!
Had Charlie truly been a blockhead, when Franklin brought him his ball, he could have said something stupid like, “Good grief! I didn’t know you people could swim.” Instead, future strips show Franklin and Charlie playing ball.
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.
So here’s to a comic strip trailblazer, a thoughtful and decent lad who loves his grandfather, is loyal to his friends and never made any little girls cry.
You’re a good man, Franklin.
By CARY CLACK
Other fun facts about Franklin:
- First Black character to appear in a Peanuts comic strip – July 31, 1968
- His last name is Armstrong
- Went to school with Peppermint Patty and Marcie
- Met Charlie Brown at the beach
- Father was a soldier fighting in Vietnam
- First Black character to appear in a Peanuts cartoon special – He appeared on TV in 1973 in There’s No Time For Love Charlie Brown (3/11/73)
- He then appeared in: A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (11/20/73); Be My Valentine Charlie Brown (1/28/75); You’re A Good Sport Charlie Brown (10/28/75); It’s Arbor Day Charlie Brown (3/16/76); It’s Your First Kiss Charlie Brown (10/24/77)
- First Voiced by Todd Barbee
The Original Production Cel and Drawing of Franklin drumming is from the 1989 TV animated series This Is America, Charlie Brown, The Music and Heroes of America. Franklin was voiced by Hakeem Abdul-Samad. This animation artwork is a part of The Museum Of UnCut Funk Collection.
Franklin ©  Peanuts Worldwide LLC