Celebrating the Life of a Premier Uppity Negro John Hope Franklin

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It’s an honor and privilege to say that I share the same alma mater as the Dr. John Hope Franklin who passed on this past Wednesday at the age of 94.  It’s even more of a privilege to say that I got to see him in person during my one year tenure at Fisk University.

It was a big deal the day he came, and fellow alumnus Nikki Giovanni was there along with all of the Board of Trustee’s. If my memory is correct, I do believe it was for Jubilee Day 2005.  If it wasn’t, forgive me for the error in my memory, and just to hear the man talk and to see him walking up to Jubilee Hall for the book signing was amazing.  He talked clearly and lucidly about his life story.

It was a great honor.

It also reminded me of the atmosphere that helped created Fisk.  Some schools lack a culture, such as my previous school prior to Fisk, Dillard University.  The legacy that was Dillard had fallen deaf on the ears of the students.  There was no school pride except when the Dillard-Xavier game was to be played.  There were failed attempts on behalf of the provost, but still the rapport between administration and students was so horrible, most students just did the best they could.  It took Hurricane Katrina for a majority of Dillard students to learn the school’s alma mater.

Not the case at Fisk.

random-fisk-graduationSo on Jubilee Day 2005, that first Thursday of the month on the 5th of October, I remember sitting in the chapel on Fisk campus and seeing such the pride that all the students had for their school and the idea of “her sons and daughters ever on the altar” ringing triumphantly throughout the chapel, that I was fully unprepared for Fisk’s school song to be sung.  Everyone interlocks their arms and launches into a rousing chorus lead by the Fisk Jubilee Singers which were placed in the balcony for that day singing:

 

The warm and genial setting sun
Lights up the hills with mellow hue
Where Fisk our alma mater stands
Majestic dear old gold and blue
Then hurrah and hurrah 
For the gold and the blue
Her sons are steadfast 
Her daughters true

And by that time I was trying not to lose it, because all I could hear in my head was “Fair Dillard, gleaming white and spacious green, we love thy every blade and tree….”

But when Fisk’s alma mater slows down and eases into the 

Where e’er we be, 
We shall still love thee
Fisk!  Our alma mater!

with such deep and dark tones, working the eight part harmony–

WHEW!!

It just does something to your spirit!!

So, to the fellow Fisk alumnus who’s crossed that final river, you’re work has spoken for itself; what you did helped a people find their voice and you definitely made the difference, and you will ever be on the altar of Fisk University.  

Ever on the altar, 

Fellow Fisk Alumni, The Uppity Negro

Care to share those seminal HBCU stories that made you just swell with pride that you made the right decision to go to an HBCU, feel free to drop those stories down in the comment box below.

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6 responses to “Celebrating the Life of a Premier Uppity Negro John Hope Franklin

  1. I thank God for the lived life of this great man. We are blessed by his having his work to guide us.

    It is wonderful that you heard him for yourself and gained ‘upness’ from the hearing, and that you have another figurative, though real, ancestor to honor with your life.

    Fisk is a part of your legacy. Stay uppity.

  2. What a wonderful and well-spent 94 years. I hope he is at this moment filling in Malcolm and Martin and Rosa and all the other ancestors on all the excitement of the past year…

  3. I didnt go to an HBCU for undergrad, but I loved our alma mater all the same. That is, until I heard that it was also Harvard’s too. BOOOO! It seems that Smtih changed its alma mater a few decades before I went there from its own original song to one that was shared. Hm. I still loved it anyways..

    “Gaudeamus igitur!”

    L

    • Not sure when you attended my beloved Fair Dillard, or what you and your class mates choose to do or not do, but I can say with an absolute certainty, that all 347 graduating members of my class, knew, loved, revered and respected our alma mater. I love Dillard, and even if my experience had been similar to the one you encountered, which I assure you it was not, I would not dare bad mouth, deface and tarnish the legacy that was and still is the personification of Ex Fide Fortis, Dillard University. Now your opinion and gross over statement is yours to be had, but be careful making statements that address an entire group of people. Such over stating started and enslaved a diaspora of people for centuries. In short, be sensitive with stating your opinion as fact, as it relates to many people, especially with something as sacred and dear to some individuals as their Alma Mater.
      Signed, sadden that your DU experience was not that of which me and my friends were lucky enough to enjoy.
      “And through the joyous days, the dreaded night, forever guide Alma Mater, forever guide, Alma mater!!!”

  4. Wow..it appears that Dr. Franklin indeed left a legacy… I am sorry that you had a poor experience at Dillard University (my alma mater), but I think that your experience was an anamolie, because the environment you describe at Fisk is what we all felt daily at DU. We all STILL know the song and when ever we are together don’t stand to close because we will break out in the Alma Mater… The HBCU experience is one to be treasured… There is not another like it.

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