Reverend Franklin

Reverend Franklin (1984)
Duration: 00:53:00

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Themes: Leadership | Musical Roots and Branches | Urban Challenges |

Guests: C. L. Franklin, Claude Young, Martha Jean Steinberg, Erma Franklin, Robin McCoy, Fannie Tyler, The Royal Crusaders, S. L. Jones, Marlon Terrell
Host : Ben Frazier
Producer : Ed Gordon, Alicia Nails, Njia Kai
Executive Producer : Juanita Anderson

Summary: This hour-long program from 1984 is divided into four segments. Three of them deal with youth-related issues or programs, but the longest and most prominent of the four is a 20-minute tribute to the Rev. C.L. Franklin, one of Detroit's most prominent and influential ministers.

Detroit Black Journal host Ben Frazier opens the show, which marked the start of DBJ's 14th season, and then introduces the tribute to Franklin who had recently died after about five years in a coma. Franklin, the longtime pastor of the New Bethel Baptist Church and a key leader of the local civil rights movement, had been shot by intruders in his home in 1979. The tribute intersperses still photographs from Franklin’s life with video clips from his funeral service and interviews with friends and family members.

Franklin, who was the father of singer Aretha Franklin, was nationally known and highly respected as a preacher and as a civil rights activist. He led the organization of a major civil rights march in Detroit in the early summer of 1963 at which Martin Luther King Jr. debuted his "I Have A Dream" speech, which became famous after he delivered it at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington a couple of months later.

One of the photos in the tribute is from that march, showing Franklin walking alongside King and U.A.W. President Walter Reuther.

The tribute is remarkable not only for the glimpse it gives into Franklin's life and personality, but also for the range of people who are interviewed. Two of his children - Erma and Cecil - are interviewed at length, as are Dr. Claud Young (an SCLC leader and cousin of Mayor Coleman A. Young), Detroit radio personality Martha Jean "The Queen" Steinberg, and local ministers Marion Terrell and S.L. Jones. The tribute also includes extended excerpts from the Rev. Jesse Jackson delivering a eulogy at Franklin's funeral.

Of special interest is the discussion by Cecil Franklin and Claud Young of the infamous New Bethel Church Incident, in which Detroit police engaged in a shootout with members of the Republic of New Afrika, a militant black nationalist group that had rented the church for a meeting. The incident resulted in more than 140 arrests, and prompted George Crockett - one of Detroit's first black judges and later a congressman - to set up an emergency courtroom at the police station and hold hearings that led to the release of most of those arrested.

The remaining segments of the program examine a church youth program; the growing trend of androgyny in pop music and its potential impact on teens; and a teen-produced television program prepared at a small local television station, WGPR.

The Franklin tribute is the most significant and interesting portion of this installment of DBJ, but taken together, the other three segments also illustrate some interesting aspects of youth culture in Detroit in the early 1980s.

Related Production Materials held at MSU Libraries, Special Collections:
Box 29, File 18, Teen Violence
Box 8, File 22, Black Business in Detroit – January 12, 1994 – Show # 2517
Box 19, File 3, Minoritiy Businesses
Box 20, File 9, Small Businesses