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Robert Franklin

Robert Michael Franklin, Jr., is the presidential distinguished professor of social ethics at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University, and former president of the Interdenominational Theological Center.

Franklin was born February 22, 1954 in Chicago, Illinois. He graduated from Morehouse College in 1975 with a double major in political science and religion before going on to study at the University of Durham in England to pursue international studies. After traveling to North Africa and the Soviet Union, he enrolled in the Harvard Divinity School and received the master of divinity degree in 1978. He earned his doctorate degree in 1985 from the University of Chicago where his major fields of study included social ethics, psychology and African American religion.

Over the years, Franklin has worked as a scholar-theologian, educator, former seminary program administrator and foundation executive. He has served on the faculties of divinity and theology schools for the University of Chicago, Harvard University, Colgate-Rochester and Emory Universities. Before his presidency at the Interdenominational Theological Center, he served as a program officer at the Ford Foundation, where he was responsible for grants to African American churches that were engaged in secular social service delivery and for advising the president of the Foundation about future funding for religion and public life.

Franklin has written two books, Liberating Visions: Human Fulfillment and Social Justice in African American Thought and Another Day’s Journey: Black Churches Confronting the American Crisis. He has also co-authored a book with Don Browning and others entitled From Culture Wars to Common Ground: Religion and the American Family Debate. Franklin is also the author of an internet study guide on the congregational use of the DreamWorks SKG film, The Prince of Egypt.

Sought after by the media, Franklin has provided guest commentary on religion for CNN and National Public Radio. He also serves on numerous boards of directors, including the Center on Philanthropy, the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, the Congress of National Black Churches, the Georgia Humanities Council and Religion and Ethics News Weekly. He is also a member of the advisory board of the American Assembly and the Children’s Defense Fund’s Black Church and Community Crusade. Franklin has worked with the White House on numerous projects related to religion, race, public health and community development. He is also a member of the professional fraternity Sigma Pi Phi.

Franklin has been married to obstetrician and gynecologist Dr. Cheryl Goffney Franklin since 1986. They have three children.

Accession Number

A2004.038

Sex

Male

Interview Date

3/26/2004

Last Name

Franklin

Marital Status

Married

Schools

Morgan Park High School

Esmond Elem School

Morehouse College

Harvard University

University of Chicago

First Name

Robert

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

FRA03

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

Caribbean, Negril, Jamaica

Favorite Quote

The World Is Equally Balanced Between Good And Evil And Your Next Act Will Tip The Scales.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Georgia

Birth Date

2/22/1954

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Atlanta

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Scallops (Grilled), Fruit Salad

Short Description

College president and theologian Robert Franklin (1954 - ) was the Presidential Distinguished Professor of Social Ethics at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University and former president of the Interdenominational Theological Center. Franklin also served as a program officer at the Ford Foundation.

Employment

NPR

Harvard University Divinity School

Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School

Emory University Candler School of Theology

Ford Foundation

Interdenominational Theological Center

Morehouse College

Favorite Color

Black, Red

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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Robert Franklin's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Robert Franklin lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Robert Franklin describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Robert Franklin describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Robert Franklin talks about his paternal and maternal grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Robert Franklin describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Robert Franklin describes his childhood neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Robert Franklin describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Robert Franklin recalls his experiences at Esmond Elementary School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Robert Franklin describes his religious upbringing

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Robert Franklin talks about his role models during his adolescence, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Robert Franklin talks about his role models during his adolescence, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Robert Franklin describes the community of Morgan Park High School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Robert Franklin describes his activities and studies while at Morgan Park High School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Robert Franklin talks about influential teachers at Morgan Park High School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Robert Franklin describes his church community during his high school years

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Robert Franklin describes his impressions of the Civil Rights Movement during his high school years

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Robert Franklin talks about his interest in attending Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Robert Franklin recalls being expelled from Morgan Park High School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Robert Franklin talks about his decision to return to Morgan Park High School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Robert Franklin recalls returning to Morgan Park High School in Chicago, Illinois after his initial expulsion

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Robert Franklin recalls being fired from his job at a grocery store

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Robert Franklin talks about his views on activism during his senior year at Morgan Park High School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Robert Franklin describes his parents' educational backgrounds

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Robert Franklin recalls travelling to Atlanta, Georgia to enroll at Morehouse College

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Robert Franklin recalls his freshman year at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Robert Franklin talks about his extracurricular activities at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Robert Franklin talks about studying abroad at Durham University in England

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Robert Franklin talks about traveling in Europe and North Africa during college

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Robert Franklin talks about his impressions of Moroccan culture during his college travels

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Robert Franklin talks about how his international travels changed his outlook on American politics and journalism

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Robert Franklin describes how his academic interests shifted from political science to theology

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Robert Franklin remembers his search for a graduate program in divinity

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Robert Franklin describes his experiences at Harvard Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Robert Franklin recalls his experiences pursuing a Ph.D. degree at the University of Chicago in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Robert Franklin talks about the beginning of his career as a professor of religion

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Robert Franklin talks about serving on the faculty of the Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Robert Franklin talks about joining the Interdenominational Theological Center as its president

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Robert Franklin describes his travels while on sabbatical from the Interdenominational Theological Center

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Robert Franklin shares his thoughts on the relationship between church and state

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Robert Franklin talks about the present situation for black churches

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Robert Franklin talks about the film 'The Passion of the Christ'

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Robert Franklin describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Robert Franklin talks about his views on gay marriage

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Robert Franklin describes his plans for the future

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Robert Franklin describes how he wants to be remembered

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Robert Franklin reflects on his father's feelings about his career

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Robert Franklin describes working as a commentator for National Public Radio

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Robert Franklin talks about the future of African American churches

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Robert Franklin reflects on the legacy of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Robert Franklin talks about the modern trend toward megachurches in Christianity

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Robert Franklin narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

5$2

DAStory

5$7

DATitle
Robert Franklin talks about serving on the faculty of the Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia
Robert Franklin describes his impressions of the Civil Rights Movement during his high school years
Transcript
Well, 1988 rolled around, and I was a guest speaker here at Emory University [Atlanta, Georgia] for the Black History Month chapel program at Candler School of Theology [Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia], and I talked about the black church studies program at Colgate Rochester [Crozer Divinity School, Rochester, New York], which was the first of its kind to have in a seminary, predominantly white seminary, an academic program on the black church that looked at its history, its theology, its distinctive styles of worship, music, and preaching and its ethics and there's a role that it played in the Civil Rights Movement. I hadn't known that you could actually teach academic courses in that area and so they were, the students at Emory were excited. Why don't we have such a program? We're here in Atlanta [Georgia] where [Reverend] Dr. [Martin Luther] King [Jr.] lived, and so they invited me to come and help establish such a program. So I joined the faculty at Emory's Candler School of Theology in the fall of 1989, and helped to set up that program. Had a good experience there, we moved to Atlanta and I had this wonderful opportunity of getting to know many of the pastors and religious and political leaders of Atlanta that I've read about and known from a distance, and was happily in the Emory University community for a few years, when my research on why black men leave the church came to public visibility; in fact, there was an article in the Atlanta Journal [Atlanta Journal-Constitution] that focused on some of that research. Someone at the Ford Foundation [New York, New York] saw the article and called me and asked if I would consider becoming a consultant, 'cause they were working with black churches and clergy, given the importance of those churches, and helping to guide African American communities. The question was could clergy be trained to help deliver what might be called secular social services, so the church has a place where after-school public health, after-school violence prevention programs, where economic literacy could be taught where greater voter participation could be encouraged, so these were interests of the Ford Foundation, and they were really wanting to experiment with working with black clergy and churches in that area; so, they invited me. You know, I'm an emerging low-level expert on the black church at that point, having been at Colgate Rochester, and ultimately they persuaded me to join full time, so I left Emory and worked at the Ford Foundation as a program officer.$In my own study time, I began to read more and I was really being intellectually stimulated by, I recall, I mean this is Chicago [Illinois] in the late '60s [1960s] now, and so there is the [1968] Democratic [National] Convention in '68 [1968] and Sly and the Family Stone concert downtown. I begged my parents [Lee McCann Franklin and Robert Franklin, Sr.], can I go down? No, no you can't go, given the chaos that was likely to ensue, which, and some did. But Chicago was an exciting place to be at that time, and so at home watching this on television, getting as close to it as we could, but to see Bobby Seale, Eldridge Cleaver, Huey [P.] Newton, all these people on the scene, the leaders of SDS [Students for a Democratic Society], and others, and then, of course, with Dr. King's [Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.] death in April of that year, '68 [1968] and Bobby Kennedy [Senator Robert F. Kennedy] in June. It was, that was a turning point year for me, more young men went to Vietnam [Vietnam War] in that year, or more died in 1968, than any other year of our fifteen, eighteen year engagement in Southeast Asia, and beginning to sort of see the remnants of young men that I knew who were returning from Vietnam, including a couple of cousins, my uncle, my father's youngest brother who also used to make those journeys from Mississippi to Detroit [Michigan] to visit his mother, would stop in Chicago to see my dad and a few brothers and sisters that were in Chicago, and he was killed in Vietnam, and this was the youngest brother so, in some sense, he was closest in age to me as I'm emerging in high school [Morgan Park High School, Chicago, Illinois]. And that had a real impact on war and the meaning of war and the finality of war and death and, this young guy, fun-loving, handsome young brother, who wasn't bothering anybody. He got on a plane one day and was taken to Asia and never came home. There was a whole painful mystery around, even, his remains because we had a funeral in which there was a closed coffin and we weren't sure it was him. In fact, half of the family insisted that it was not when they did insist that the remains be displayed to the family. So, it was kind of traumatizing never to have real closure on young Willie Franklin [ph.]. So, that was a part of my growing awareness that behind this little world I inhabited, Morgan Park [Chicago, Illinois], South Side of Chicago, these great leaders like King and Kennedy and Fred Hampton, and others, were being murdered, that the police no longer seemed to be just this efficient bureaucratic Chicago operation, but seemed to be, themselves, a kind of criminal class and the more ominous period in my own coming of age and the reading of literature and James Baldwin and Ralph Ellison's 'Invisible Man,' and findings language to name that sense of alienation and despair and anger. And then, I guess the other part of this was the college decision because I wouldn't graduate until 1971, but I recall watching the death and the funeral of Dr. King, and much of that memorial service occurred on the Morehouse [College, Atlanta, Georgia] campus, watching that procession of leaders march on to the campus, watching [Dr.] Benjamin Mays. My father, it was the first time he sort of basically said, "Sit down, I want you to watch this." And afterward, he said, "I think you oughta consider Morehouse College," so, that was his first time being kind of directive in terms of saying this institution is one you ought to think about. Of course, I went back to school, you know, I began to ask around and ask Mrs. Carmichael [ph.], I wanted to learn more about Morehouse, and she provided some materials, and began to focus on people like [HistoryMaker] Julian Bond and [HistoryMaker] John Lewis, who were in Ebony magazine, and others who had attended HBCUs. And I thought, yeah, that's for me.