New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1948. First edition, third printing. Hardcover. This is an inscribed author’s presentation copy of the first edition, third printing. The book has been called "a landmark in the interpretation of American civilization” and its author “one of the most remarkable Americans of the 20th century… the master of the great American story of that century, the story of race.” In four lines in black ink on the front free endpaper recto the author wrote: “For Steve Walter, | with the admiration and | best wishes of | John Hope Franklin”.
This third printing was published in July 1948, following the first and second printings of September 1947 and February 1948. Condition is very good in a good minus dust jacket. The black cloth binding printed and illustrated in gilt and blind is square, tight, clean, and unfaded, with sharp corners. We note some wrinkling to the spine and a little unobtrusive mottling to the buckram. The contents are clean with no spotting and no previous ownership marks other than the author’s inscription. The page edges are likewise clean, the green top stain uniform and unfaded. The dust jacket shows considerable wear, including a split rear hinge, but is nonetheless substantially complete, with a neatly clipped upper front flap (a “$3.75” price is intact on the lower front flap) and minor loss primarily confined to the flap fold and hinge corners. The spine is quite significantly scuffed and wrinkled, particularly the upper spine, while wear to the faces is mostly to the extremities. The jacket is now protected beneath a clear, removable, archival cover.
Historian, author, civil rights activist, and public intellectual, John Hope Franklin (1915-2009) accumulated an improbable myriad of firsts and accolades in his long, accomplished life. “Franklin was often the first black person to hold chairs, positions, and organizational presidencies, paving the way for many future scholars of color in all academic fields.” Testifying to Franklin’s fame and prestige, former President Clinton awarded Franklin the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1995, the nation’s highest civilian honor, and spoke at a memorial service for him in June 2009.
Beyond the accolades, Franklin’s most important legacy was his scholarship. “Most of Franklin’s scholarship, which would eventually comprise some twenty-five books and more than one hundred articles, was at the intersection of southern history and African American history.”
From Slavery to Freedom, “a survey of African American history that revolutionized the field”, was Franklin’s “most important book.” The book’s impact may be difficult to overstate. It would be translated into multiple languages, including Japanese, French, German, Chinese, and Spanish, and sell more than three million copies. From Slavery to Freedom “catapulted Franklin to prominence, while making it possible for African American history to be taught outside of historically black colleges and universities.” A decade and a half after it was first published in 1947, “when majority white colleges began offering courses in black history, Franklin’s book, by then in its third edition, was the most commonly used text.” (ODNB). Item #007376