- Historic Sites
The Road From Rentiesville
The greatest historian of the black experience in America speaks of what has changed during his long life, and what has not. An Interview With John Hope Franklin.
February/March 2002 | Volume 53, Issue 1
W. E. B. Du Bois said in 1903 that the problem of the twentieth century would be the problem of the color line. You’ve suggested that it will be the problem in the twenty-first century too.
Are you optimistic?
Cautiously. Cautiously optimistic. In Oklahoma, my high school now is a major magnet high school in the city. And although it’s over in the black section of town, far from the dividing line, white people would kill to get their kids in that school. They’re there by the droves—I think it’s 50 percent at least by this time—and that’s because it’s a good school. That’s all. It’s because it’s a good school. So they’re not running out to the suburbs. They’re right there in the heart of town, trying to get their kids into that school.
Not everything that we need to do is necessarily in terms of race. What we have to do is to shore up our society, and the same thing is true for employment opportunities. I wrote a piece once called “Land of Room Enough.” We’ve got plenty here for everybody. We don’t have to scratch each other’s eyes out if we continue to build our society and our economy. That’s why I always end up talking about the schools. When they’re all good, when people don’t think about who is going to be in the school but only want their kids to get the best education, then we’ll have not only nonsegregated schools but integrated schools. And that might lead to an integrated society.