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Franklin: “Peanuts” First Black Comic Character Introduced in 1968

Written by Jae Jones

The year was 1968, and it was everything but peaceful in the United States. The fight for equality was still in full force.  Dr. Martin Luther King had been shot, people were angry and riots were taking place across the country. There was no peace in sight for a country in such hurt and turmoil. Through it all, there were a few things in the country taking place that were positive. On April 15, 1968 a school teacher, Harriet Glickman, wrote a letter to a cartoonist. Her goal was to improve the race relations, Blacks and Whites were struggling to get along. Glickman felt that anything Blacks and Whites could relate to as one could help close the gap in the country.

Glickman’s letter was to Charles M. Schulz, the author of the Peanuts’ comic strip. Peanuts was syndicated in hundreds of newspapers around the world. It was and still is a well-known comic strip that people could read and relate. People loved the characters too, Charlie Brown, Peppermint Patty, Snoopy, Lucy, and the rest of the gang. However, the only thing missing in the comic was a person of color. Of course, the community was tired of seeing faces in the positive spotlight that looked nothing like them. Glickman felt that if the comic which was so well loved by millions of people could show black and white children getting along, it would set a new pace for black and white children in the real world. The letter written to Schulz can be found at the Schulz museum. When Schulz responded in his letter back to Glickman he sympathetically but negatively declined the idea of a black character. In his letter he described the fear as many other cartoonists had about adding a black character to their comics.

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Glickman did not look at Schulz’s letter as a denial. Instead, she begin writing letters to   friends to get their reaction about adding a black character to Peanuts. Many of them wrote back and Glickman forwarded the letters to Schulz. Reluctant to create the black character Schulz did in fact begin to take the steps to produce the strip. On July 29 something amazing happened in the world of Peanuts, and his name was Franklin. Charlie Brown and Franklin met on the beach over a beach ball, and they became friends. Yes, people across the world took notice of the change to Peanuts. People in the South gave Schulz a difficult time, but he fired back and told publishers to print the strip the way he drew it, or he would quit. Charlie Brown never talked about Franklin being black, but a strip did later come out with Peppermint Patty making reference to Franklin being black.

 

source:

How Franklin Became Peanuts‘ First Black Character, Thanks to a Caring Schoolteacher (1968)

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About the author

Jae Jones

Jae Jones has been writing professionally for over 10 years. She holds a degree in Business Administration, and enjoys writing on various topics.

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