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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Time now for StoryCorps. This project records conversations between loved ones and archives them for history. Today, a man who wrote about history, the late John Hope Franklin, chronicled and lived through racism in America. We reported on his death and life in this segment yesterday. Today, a recording he made at StoryCorps just four months ago with his son.

John Hope Franklin talked about growing up in Tulsa, Oklahoma in the 1920s.

Dr. JOHN HOPE FRANKLIN (Historian): It was my first year as a Boy Scout. Scouting had just come to a black community, and I'm in it for one of the first troops. And I'm very, very excited about fulfilling all of the obligations of the Boy Scouts. And I've got so much enthusiasm, I've got so much anxiety to be the best Boy Scout I can possibly be.

One of the admonitions that we had was that we had to do a good deed every day. And so, I was downtown in Tulsa, standing at the street corner waiting for the light to turn. And I've got my eyes on people and things. What can I do to perform a good deed for the day? I've got to perform one. I just have to.

And I saw this woman as she was stepping off the curb. She had a cane, and she was feeling like that. And I said oh, my goodness. She can't see. And so I walked up to her and I said, could I help you cross? She said, oh, yes. Oh, yes. I'm so glad. And she grabbed on my arm as though I was the last person on earth.

We got about halfway across the street. She's so happy and laughing and talking. Then she said out in the middle of the street, she said, are you white or black? I guess she said colored in those days. And I told her I was colored, and she said, get your filthy hands off of me. And I got my hands off of her.

And I reflected on that, that this woman, who could not see and who was in desperate need of help, was not as interested in help as she was in being certain that a young black man didn't touch her. And I knew then that we were in deep trouble to overcome that kind of racial hostility.

Mr. JOHN W. FRANKLIN: Thank you, dad.

(Soundbite of music)

MONTAGNE: John W. Franklin with his late father, John Hope Franklin. Their conversation was recorded in November of 2008 in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

You'll find more of these StoryCorps interviews at NPR.org.

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