In the summer of 1968, Charles Schulz decided not to take the path of least resistance and introduce the world to Franklin, the first and only Black Peanuts character. 

This Peanuts comic strip was fairly typical of Charlie Brown’s half-hearted exasperation with an unfair world.

My Beach Ball

Not only does the world cease its relentless, playful torment of Charlie Brown, but the boy who tamps it down is Black and can swim. Because on July 31, 1968, Schulz introduced the world to Franklin. May not seem like much, but it’s as explicitly political as Peanuts ever ventures. Until, that is, August 1, 1968:

Is This Your Ball

The father of Franklin, the Black boy who swims, is over in Vietnam. That second panel neatly illustrates how far Schulz strayed from his comfort zone.  Charlie Brown’s father “was in a war, but [he doesn’t] know which one.” That’s the extent to which contemporary politics typically intruded the most popular daily comic in America. But for some reason, Schulz felt the need to contradict conventional racist wisdom that summer.

Is Your Family Here

Sand Castle

The racists responded in the manner befitting Wallace-backers: “I don’t mind you having a Black character, but please don’t show them in school together.” must’ve sucked to be a racist. That’s from May 13, 1970, two years after Schulz quietly integrated public schools. There’s much to admire in the matter-of-factness of Schulz’s racial politics…Franklin arrives, befriends Peppermint Patty, and plays football.

Book Report

 Unless, that is, you’re a fan of Dennis the Menace:

Dennis the Menace:

Source: Scott Kaufman

Franklin © [2013] Peanuts Worldwide LLC

1 Comment

  • November 15, 2013

    I loved the Peanuts comic strip. I’m a former Hallmark employee and my department Licensing Design created lots of Peanuts cards. As the only African male in my area I championed a complete Franklin collection. It was to have party products and cards. Alas, it was shot down in our new product launch. They said it wouldn’t be viable in the marketplace. Not even Mahogany their ‘black’ card line would take it. Black folk may have headed it up but the final decision was not theirs to make. I had the pleasure of meeting my hero Charles Schulz on his visit to the KCMO headquarters! He could not have been a kinder, gentler man. Trying my best not to geek out I told him how I enjoyed the strip! He thanked me and then I told him how much Franklin mean’t to me and I asked how did you decide to create him. Mr.Schulz said simply “Charlie needed another friend”. No political agenda just ‘a friend’! He said newspapers in the South, of course, as well as a few in the north said they would’nt run them and he replied he’d pull his strip from all their publications! They printed them! Afterwards not another thing was said about it. That’s the kind of unassuming powerful juggernaut he was! Hallmark did eventually decide to print one ‘general expression’ Franklin card. This was back in the 90’s. It’s been in the line ever since! Hell, I found it on Amazon! Love that Franklin…and your website by the way! PEACE!

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