John Hope Franklin, the noted historian who helped define the African American experience, died today at Duke University Hospital. He was 94.

“He was at the forefront of some of the biggest turning points in the nation’s civil rights history,” the News & Observer of Raleigh said of Franklin today. Harvard historian Henry Louis Gates Jr. once called him his “intellectual godfather.”

In 1953, Franklin helped NAACP lawyers prepare for the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education case. He joined other historians and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery. And in 1997, President Clinton tapped him to lead a national initiative on race.

Franklin’s book “From Slavery to Freedom,” first published in 1947, sold 3.5 million copies.

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