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John Hope Franklin: Only color mattered
Trying to volunteer to help fight, John Hope Franklin learned he wasn't needed.
Interview outtakes from THE WAR:
"I went down to the recruiting office of the navy and volunteered. The young recruiter for the navy said, ‘What can you do?' I said, ‘Well, I can, uh, I can run an office.’ He said, ‘How can you run an office?’ I said, ‘Well, I, I can type, I have three gold medals in typing. I can take shorthand if that’s needed. I do 130 words a minute shorthand.‘ I said, ‘And I managed an office. I did that, uh, as an undergraduate. I ran the office of this librarian at Fisk, you know, I was his private secretary, and ran the office for four years.’ I said, ‘And, oh, yes, I have a Ph.D. in history from Harvard.’ And he looked at me and, uh, I wondered whether he was going to tell me what had been said to blacks in earlier times. Washington thanked the blacks when they volunteered after, uh, the opening, after the Civil W-, after the World W-, after the Revolutionary War began, he, he thanked ‘em and sent them home and Lincoln did the same thing in 1861. I wondered what he was gonna say. He said, ‘You have everything but color.’ And, uh, I said, ‘Well, I thought there was an emergency, but obviously there’s not, so I bid you a good day.’ And I vowed that day that they would not get me, because they did not deserve me. If I was able ‘ physically, mentally, every other kind of way, able and willing to serve my country ‘ and my country turned me down on the basis of color, then my country did not deserve me. And I vowed then that they would not get me. I would lie and cheat and steal and do anything else that I could to stay out of that man’s army, for I saw not a great deal of difference between that man’s army and the armies that they were fighting."