Smithsonian Historian Advises Commission on Race and Slavery

Smithsonian historian John W. Franklin joined the July 24 meeting of the Davidson College Commission on Race and Slavery by phone and helped the group plot the research work ahead, ranging from the history of Davidson's role in the economy to its ties to the community to who owned slaves on campus.

Franklin serves as the cultural historian and senior manager of the office of external affairs at the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture and is the son of the late author and historian John Hope Franklin. The younger Franklin led a visit to the museum by faculty from Davidson's Africana Studies Department the following weekend.

"Reveal the past. Reveal the truth," Franklin told the group as they discussed their hopes for results. "Without knowledge, we cannot move forward."

The commission, led by Chair Anthony R. Foxx, on Tuesday created working groups on research, public engagement and examining individual opportunities for the commission to pursue research or program projects. In their conversations with Franklin and among themselves, they discussed hopes of linking the past to present in a way that engages students and the community, all the while recognizing that Davidson is small part of a world story.

"We want to learn more. Let the process lead us to next steps," Foxx said to the group. "We want to be a truth-finding committee."

And, hopefully, he added, some healing will come out of the work they do.