Watching The Peanuts as a kid I never realized that the character Franklin was a historic addition to the cast. I was more concerned with two of my favorites, Sally and her love of Linus, and Woodstock because I loved birds. (I really loved the Lucy character and although my younger self had plan to become a psychologist, my sister Buffy had dibs on Lucy. She claimed Lucy as her favorite in a move so Lucy like that my aunt calls Buffy “Lucy” to this day.) Franklin was just a boy who was attacked by a chair at Thanksgiving but I know differently now.
July 31st is the 47th anniversary of Franklin, the Peanuts first African-American character. Franklin was created when Harriet Glickman, a school teacher, wrote a letter to the comic strip’s creator Charles M. Schulz following the death of Martin Luther King urging him that an African American character needed to be added to the popular comic strip. “Franklin Armstrong” was introduced on July 31, 1968, representing the importance of desegregation.
I had an opportunity to speak with Ms. Glickman and Mar Mar, the You Tube star who will voice Franklin in the upcoming “The Peanuts Movie.” Glickman had no idea that penning a letter to Charles Schulz would result in Franklin. She just wanted to show a child who was just like the rest of the Peanuts gang, and this child who was African American. The result is a sweet and gentle child who is best friends with Charlie Brown. While Ms. Glickman did not experience any backlash, she says that there was some negative response in the South about the new character, which she was not directly affected by but aware of.
I asked Ms. Glickman WHY she advocated for this character and I love her response. As the mother of three children, she wanted then to know that she fought for what she believed in and that the everyone can make a difference. Ms. Glickman was raised to gently talk and to practice what she lived and used her voice to advocate for a needed change. For her children, she wanted them to be aware of what happens in their world and to approach with compassion and empathy.
I was pleasantly surprised that I was also able to speak with Mar Mar, the voice of Franklin in the movie. This is his first major movie although he has appeared on Disney Channel on Austin and Ally and Mall Rats. He was excited about being among the fourteen voices for the character of Franklin. He’s spending his summer doing some school and was looking forward to a much needed vacation. Mar Mar would not give up any spoilers but told me to expect changes from Charlie Brown.
Both Ms. Glickman and Mar Mar agreed that Franklin was their favorite character and urged me to see the movie when it comes out.