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Civil Rights Activist, Historian Discusses New Autobiography

John Hope Franklin, a descendent of slaves and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his work in civil rights, talks about his new autobiography.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    Historian John Hope Franklin carries his 91 years with grace and vigor, passionate about his research, his writing, and his beloved orchids.

    The heart of his life story, however, is rooted in his country's struggles with race. From his birth in a small, black Oklahoma town, through an academic career that took him from Nashville's Fisk University to Harvard, and throughout a teacher's, writer's and lecturer's life that stretched from Brooklyn College to the University of Chicago, to Duke University and several other institutions, Franklin has authored 16 books.

    Chief among those titles, "From Slavery to Freedom," a treatise on African-American history first published in 1947 and, three million copies later, now in its eighth printing.

    From landmark protests in Alabama to landmark research on Brown v. the Board of Education, Franklin has appeared at many of the nation's racial turning points. In 1995, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Franklin's latest book is his autobiography, "Mirror to America."