John Hope Franklin Scholars


Our Program

In the John Hope Franklin Scholars program, students become historian adventurers.

In the program’s first year, they traced the influences of West African building techniques from Stagville to Asheville, worked on a virtual 3D historic barn, built their own 19th-century framing joints, and traveled to Historic Jamestown and Coastal Virginia to explore how the food of enslaved people became incorporated into our culture. The second year focused on “The Great Migration,” the early 20th-century movement of large numbers of African-Americans from the South to the North, and its effect on literature, music and more. Research included travels to Wilmington and to Harlem, New York.

The program kicks off in the summer with a one-week immersion program and continues with field trips and monthly meetings throughout the school year.

Our Origins

Students become historian adventurers with a focus on hidden history in the style of John Hope Franklin. The program kicks off in the summer with a one-week immersion program and continues with field trips and monthly meetings throughout the school year, including a daylong retreat at a goat farm. Originally just for middle school students, the program expanded to include high school when the Scholars wanted to stay with the program.

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Year 1

In the program’s first year, the Scholars traced the influences of West African building techniques from Stagville to Asheville, worked on a virtual 3D historic barn, built their own 19th-century framing joints, and traveled to Historic Jamestown and Coastal Virginia to explore how the food of enslaved people became incorporated into our culture. An important component of the program is a capstone project to share what has been learned during the year. The Scholars spent a day at The Woodwright’s School, working with period carpentry tools and creating the scarf joints used in the Stagville Great Barn. These were then donated to the historic site for use in their education activities.

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Year 2

Year 2

The second year focused on “The Great Migration,” the early 20th-century movement of large numbers of African-Americans from the South to the North, and its effect on literature, music and more. Research included travels to Wilmington to study the 1898 coup that helped trigger the exodus of Blacks to Harlem, New York and the North. The capstone was creating a version of Monopoly from an early 20th Century African American perspective. The players can move their pieces just around the South, migrate to the North, or do both. The properties were ones owned by African-Americans during that period.

Other Capstone Projects

Scholars created a traveling exhibit for NEH on the Freedom Crafters.
  • With financial assistance from an NEH planning grant, the Scholars studied African-Americans who used a craft to gain their freedom. With field research in the Triangle, Edenton, and Charleston, the Scholars created a proposed traveling exhibit for NEH on the Freedom Crafters. The project area was so rich in resources, we repeated the focus seven years later but this time used 21st Century crafting technology like 3D printing and laser cutters to create our own craft objects, and marketed them at the Durham Farmer’s Market. The Scholars also built a full-scale replica of the attic that Harriet Jacobs hid in for seven years on West Campus outside the Bryan Center.
Scholars studied diseases endemic to NC and more widely, and then created multimedia presentations.
  • North Carolina historically had a terrible reputation for health care and was humiliated into taking action when over 35% of recruits for WWI, were deemed unfit for military service. The Scholars studied diseases endemic to NC and more widely, and then created multimedia presentations using green screen technology which were used over the NC School of Science and Mathematics distance learning studios to share more broadly. They also brought their interactive materials on diseases to several elementary school science nights.
Scholars created and performed a play at the Sheafer Lab Black Box Theater at Duke.
  • Migration became a hot issue in national politics and the Scholars examined four little-known aspects of the issue. Groups studied Mexicans that had the border cross over them before Texas became a state, suppression in the Congo by Belgian King Leopoldo, Lebanese migration to the United States, and the religious conflict in the Vietnamese highlands that brought many members of the Jarai community to the US. The Scholars created and performed a play at the Sheafer Lab Black Box Theater at Duke.
Scholars produced a documentary on the Hidden Civil Rights Struggles during the Civil War.
  • As Civil Rights memorials were being contested, the Scholars looked back at several surprising aspects of the war. They studied why the Cherokee sided with the Confederacy and the Lumbees with the North. Why armed NC women took to the street with weapons to break into bakeries, and how the New Bern area became a haven for escaping enslaved people. After traveling and filming in several locations around the State, the Scholars produced a documentary on the Hidden Civil Rights Struggles during the Civil War.
Scholars wrote a biography about John Hope Franklin called “Running for Hope” that was part graphic autobiography and part fictional story.
  • When the 100th anniversary of John Hope Franklin’s birth rolled around, the Scholars spent a year digging into his life. They looked for a way to make a biography about him accessible to young students and came up with the unusual idea of a hybrid book, Running for Hope, that was part graphic autobiography and part fictional story about a young Black teen who struggles with some of the same issues. The Scholars were honored at a packed Duke Chapel as part of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebration.
Scholars celebrated Terry Sanford.
  • Another important milestone was the centennial of the birth of Terry Sanford, the groundbreaking governor of NC, former Senator and presidential candidate, and former president of Duke. The capstone project that year was a multimedia mobile app.
Scholars made masked puppets and a stage set for a performance in the Rubenstein Art Center theater and a cafe scene with actors to interweaving both Muslim History and the Nasreddin wise fool tales.
  • After the tragedy in Chapel Hill when three Muslims were killed at point blank range, the Scholars were motivated to study Hidden Muslim History in NC and the South. They visited Mosques, Islamic schools, learned about caring for a body after death, and dug into archives at Duke and UNC. They chose to create a puppet show as a format that would not feel threatening to audiences. As part of their training, a group spent an extended weekend at a retreat center in the NC mountains experimenting with the creation of puppets, and then visited Paperhand Puppets studio, and attended several puppet performances in the area to learn more about the craft. They were also able to use laser cutters to make shadow puppets. They also made masked puppets and a stage set for a performance in the Rubenstein Art Center theater. and a cafe scene with actors to interweaving both Muslim History and the Nasreddin wise fool tales. The 40-minute production was converted into a multimedia video due to the Pandemic.

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