On Nov. 11, Auburn University held a ceremony for the unveiling of a desegregation marker honoring the late Harold A. Franklin, the first Black student to enroll at Auburn. The outdoor event commemorated the legacy Franklin has left at Auburn University.
“There is nothing more that we can say as a family except thank you,” said Harold Franklin Jr. in response to the desegregation marker and its dedication to his late father.
The unveiling was preceded by speeches from Kenneth Kelly, a 1990 Auburn graduate and chairman and CEO of First Independence Bank of Detroit; Harold Franklin Jr., Harold A. Franklin’s son; Auburn University President Jay Gogue; and Auburn Board of Trustees member Elizabeth Huntley.
“This occasion is for honoring a proud man who never asked for anything but opportunity,” Kelly said.
Franklin became the first African American student on Auburn’s campus on Jan. 4, 1964. He graduated from Alabama State College in 1962 and entered Auburn’s campus as a graduate student in 1964.
However, because of discriminatory obstacles he faced, such as a consistent denial of his thesis, he transferred to the University of Denver where he earned a master’s degree in history.
After many decades of continuing his education and teaching at several universities across the South, he returned to Auburn. In 2020, Harold A. Franklin walked across the stage and received his diploma for a master’s in history after successfully defending his thesis.
“He is what I call a silent giant of the civil rights movement,” Huntley said. “He was the quintessential example a spirit that’s not afraid and a man of humility and grace.”
This segregation marker indicates the positive changes that have occurred in the past decades to end discrimination on campus and commemorates a man who had a major impact on advances of equality at Auburn University.
The desegregation marker, located at a plaza outside the Ralph Brown Draughon Library, says, “Dr. Franklin’s bold journey is the epitome of a spirit that is not afraid. His story continues to move our hearts, stimulate our minds and inspire our lives.”
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Emma Hall is a news writer for The Auburn Plainsman.