On this day, 52 years ago, Franklin Armstrong, the first black cartoon character ever to be seen in an American comic strip, was introduced as the first African American "PEANUTS" character to Charles M. Schulz's beloved comic strip.
Franklin's 1968 appearance in the PEANUTS came during a polarizing time in U.S. history. With parallels to current events, race, equality, and civil rights were prevalent in the public consciousness during Franklin's debut. The Brown v. Board of Education's decision to desegregated schools and civil rights activists protests for equal rights brought the topic of equality to the front of a national conversation.
The 1968 assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King was a tipping point for the nation. This unfortunate incident motivated Harriet Glickman, a retired school teacher frustrated with racial injustice, to write letters to various cartoonists encouraging them to add diversity to their comic strip publications through African American children characters' inclusions.
Socially aware and realizing the importance of breaking down racism and inequality, Charles Schulz took on Harriet Glickman's challenge of creating and showcasing the first black cartoon character ever to exist in a highly published comic strip.
Bringing about change did not go unopposed. After Franklin's debut, Schulz received angry letters from editors protesting scenes showing Franklin and Peppermint Patty in a desegregated classroom and demanded that Schulz obliterate the Franklin character. Schulz never let opposition deter his belief in doing what was right. Moreover, Schulz was encouraged by a mostly positive response to Franklin. The PEANUTS strip received many heartfelt letters fans that expressed joy and pride in having harmonious depictions of equality between black and white Americans.
Franklin Armstrong helps break down racial barriers and establish a narrative of inclusiveness and equality throughout the nation. Thanks to the determination of Harriet Glickman and Charles M. Schulz, who did not allow the opposition to stop them from doing what they knew was right, Franklin became a symbol of equality during the civil rights era. Glickman and Schulz's actions are a testament to the fact that righteous acts, no matter how small, can have a profoundly meaningful impact on society.