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Auburn University to dedicate marker for first Black student 2 months after his death

Harold A. Franklin, Auburn University’s first African American student, died in September at 88.
Harold A. Franklin, Auburn University’s first African American student, died in September at 88.(Source: Auburn University)
Published: Nov. 4, 2021 at 12:15 PM CDT
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AUBURN, Ala. (WSFA) - Auburn University is preparing to honor Harold A. Franklin, the university’s first African American student, with a desegregation marker dedication ceremony.

The ceremony will be held on Nov. 11 to the side of Ralph Brown Draughon Library where a plaza was recently created to accompany the marker.

Among those preparing to speak at the event are Franklin’s son, Harold Franklin Jr.; Auburn University President Jay Gogue; Kenneth Kelly, a 1990 Auburn graduate and chairman and CEO of First Independence Bank of Detroit; and Auburn Board of Trustees member Elizabeth Huntley.

Harold Franklin, Auburn's first Black student, walking near Samford Hall after enrolling for...
Harold Franklin, Auburn's first Black student, walking near Samford Hall after enrolling for graduate study in history under court order in January 1964. (Source: Auburn University)

Franklin integrated Auburn as the university’s first Black student on Jan. 4, 1964. He was a Graduate School enrollee who went on to a successful 27-year career as an educator in higher education after leaving Auburn in 1965. He earned a master’s degree in international studies from the University of Denver and taught history at Alabama State University, North Carolina A&T State University, Tuskegee Institute and Talladega College before retiring in 1992.

Franklin initially was not allowed to defend his thesis at Auburn, a wrong that was righted last Feb. 19, and he participated in fall 2020 commencement exercises on Dec. 12.

Harold Franklin was the first Black student to attend Auburn University.
Harold Franklin was the first Black student to attend Auburn University.(Auburn University)

In 2001, Auburn honored Franklin by awarding him an honorary Doctor of Arts and in 2015 erected the historic marker near the library where he first registered for classes.

Harold Franklin and others at pose for a photo in front of the marker in this 2015 photo....
Harold Franklin and others at pose for a photo in front of the marker in this 2015 photo. (Source: WSFA 12)

The event is open only by invitation but the public can watch the ceremony online at https://ocm.auburn.edu/livevideo/franklin-ceremony/.

The latest honor comes two months after Franklin’s death. He was 88.

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