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Why ‘Peanuts’ Needed an African-American Character 47 Years Ago Today

In 1968, Franklkin was born when retired L.A. teacher Harriet Glickman successfully lobbied ”Peanuts“ creator Charles Schulz

Exactly 47 years ago, Charles M. Schulz’ “Peanuts” made history when he introduced Franklin, the first African-American character ever featured in a comic strip.
In the animated “The Peanuts Movie,” due in theaters on Nov. 6, Franklin (voiced by rapper Mar Mar) will join Charlie Brown and the gang in new big-screen adventures.
Franklin owes his existence to retired L.A. schoolteacher Harriet Glickman, who in the days following Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination wrote letters to Schulz to suggest that he diversify the gang surrounding his wispy-haired blockhead.

“Because he was so famous and the strips were so important, I really didn’t think I would get an answer,” Glickman, now 88, told TheWrap. “It was really not long afterwards that I did. He said that that he had been thinking about it a lot, but didn’t think it would be possible because he thought that black parents might find it patronizing.”

Upon hearing that, Glickman showed Schulz’ letter to some of her African-American friends to get their opinion on the matter. They each wrote him that they would welcome such a character, and Schulz wrote her back, telling her that she would be pleased to see the character in the strip in the week of July 29. Franklin was born.

“The idea was that a black child should be able to see himself looking at a comic strip that people loved and say, ‘Oh, I’m one of them,'” Glickma recalled. “And white kids should look at it and say, ‘That’s natural — black and white kids in a classroom, that’s the way it should be.'”

Not everyone welcomed Franklin’s addition into the “Peanuts” gang. Schulz got pushback from newspapers, particularly in the South, but reportedly told his syndicate, “You print it the way I draw it or I quit.”

Glickman’s advocacy was borne of her observation of the civil rights movement in the 1960s — and of one little girl in particular.
“For years, I had been reading about the struggles for civil rights in this country and the difficulty that black kids had with integration in schools,” she said. “Little Ruby Bridges — who was 6 years old — had to walk through a crowd of people who were spitting at her and yelling at her while being surrounded by guards. She was 6 years old! I thought, the courage it took for her parents to actually allow her to do this and put her through it was such an important reason.”

Glickman added that modern technology has made it easier for ordinary people to make a positive impact on the world. “The voice we have now because of social media — you can be heard now in a different way than you could 47 years ago,” she said.