Auburn University Dedicates Desegregation Marker to First Black Student

In Summary

Auburn University is honoring Auburn University’s first Black student Harold A. Franklin with a desegregation marker on the campus.

It’s been a little over two months since Harold A. Franklin, the first African American student of Auburn University in Alabama, passed away at the age of 88, and WSFA 12 News reports that he’s being honored with a desegregation marker next to a plaza also named for him. 

Franklin received an honorary Doctor of Arts degree from Auburn in 2001, and a historic memorial was placed outside the Ralph Brown Draughon Library, where he initially registered for classes, in 2015. 

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The Nov. 11 dedication ceremony featured appearances from Harold Franklin Jr. and Auburn University President Jay Gogue, who previously hailed Franklin as a pioneer. 

“Dr. Franklin was a pioneer who paved the way for other African American students to attend Auburn University,” Gogue said in a statement immediately following his death. “Auburn is a better institution because of Dr. Franklin’s bravery 57 years ago. His spirit of internal fortitude will continue to inspire us.” 

Franklin enrolled in the Graduate School on Jan. 4, 1964, and became the university’s first Black student. He was first denied permission to defend his thesis at Auburn, a move that was reversed on Feb. 19, 2020, and allowed him to participate in the fall 2020 commencement. 

Even though he hadn’t officially graduated after leaving Auburn in 1965, Franklin went on to have a successful 27-year career as a higher-education educator, earning a master’s degree in international studies from the University of Denver and teaching history at Alabama State University, North Carolina A&T State University, Tuskegee Institute and Talladega College before retiring in 1992. 

The desegregation marker dedication isn’t the first time the trailblazer was honored at the university. 

The Auburn Alumni Association’s Black Alumni Council recently established a fund in Franklin’s honor, according to the university, which raised over $11,000 and offered four $1,000 scholarships for the 2021-22 academic year. Auburn students also launched The Harold A. Franklin Society in 2008. 

RELATED: Tulane University’s First Black Residency Director Files Racial Discrimination Lawsuit

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