Here's how iconic 1st Black character Franklin joined 'Peanuts' in 1968

A statue of beloved "Peanuts" character Franklin has found a new home in Santa Rosa. Here's how he got introduced in 1968

Lyanne Melendez Image
Thursday, January 19, 2023
Here's how 1st Black character Franklin joined 'Peanuts' in 1968
A statue of beloved "Peanuts" character Franklin has found a new home in Santa Rosa. Here's how he got introduced in the iconic series in 1968.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A statue of one of the beloved characters in the "Peanuts" series has found a new home at a high school in Santa Rosa. Franklin, who is African American was first introduced in 1968, towards the end of the civil rights struggle.

It was a few days after Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination, and a young teacher in the Los Angeles area was motivated to act.

"I cared deeply. It was after the assassination of Martin Luther King and the frustration and the anger," said Harriet Glickman during an interview a few years ago.

RELATED: SoCal woman says she convinced 'Peanuts' creator to add Black character in 1960s

On April 15, 1968 Glickman wrote a letter to, of all people, Charles Schulz, the creator of the comic strip "Peanuts," asking him to include a Black character.

Benjamin Clark, is the curator of the Charles Schulz museum in Santa Rosa. He read us part of the letter.

"She says, I'm writing to you because I want to do something about the vast sea of misunderstanding, fear, hate and violence."

It took some convincing, but two months later, Charles Schulz wrote back.

"Dear Mrs. Glickman, you'll be pleased to know that I have taken the first step in doing something."

"I was jubilant, I was so excited, I mean, first of all, he was an icon himself and the fact that he actually read my letter and paid attention and thought about it. I was very impressed," she recalls.

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Even before Franklin debuted, there was a lot of pushback. The United Feature Syndicate was worried that some newspapers would protest.

Schulz threatened to quit and the syndicate had to gave in.

"Voila, Franklin debuted on the beach meeting Charlies Brown with a Beach Ball," explained Melissa Menta of Peanuts Worldwide.

Glickman died in March 2020, knowing that her letter convinced Schulz to promote an interracial friendship, a first step.

In the early 90s, Schulz finally gave Franklin a last name, Armstrong, after the creator of the comic strip, "JumpStart," Robb Armstrong.

And most recently, Peanuts Worldwide created the Armstrong Project.

"We started the Armstrong Project to promote the development of illustrators and cartooning in the Black community because the representation was so low," added Menta.

MORE: 7 things you didn't know about Charlie Brown and 'Peanuts'

Two scholarships are now given to students seeking a career in illustration and art at two historically Black colleges.

"The Armstrong Project is at its heart, something that allows dreams to come true," expressed Robb Armstrong.

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A few weeks ago, a statue of Franklin was donated to Piner High School, adding to the collection of Peanuts statues in Santa Rosa.

If you take a closer look at the 1968 illustration, Charlie Brown tells Franklin, "Where I come from, I'm not famous for doing things right..." a thoughtful and meaningful comment.

"We do our best to do the right thing. We may not always do the right thing correctly, but we have to at least try. And I think that's Charles Schulz encouraging us all to do the same," explained Clark.

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