Peanuts’ Franklin And 1968

By all accounts 1968 was a tragic year in the USA.  In the links below the horrific events of 1968 never ceased to manifest themselves from week to week.

As a teenager reading the daily newspaper and watching the television, especially the evening news, the chaos and pain came into our living rooms each night.  There was no escape, except perhaps in watching Star Trek with its optimism for the future or Apollo 8 and its intrepid voyage to the moon in December to end the year with a view of the home world hanging in the majesty of the infinite.

Apollo 8, the first manned mission to the moon, entered lunar orbit on Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, 1968. That evening, the astronauts—Commander Borman, Command Module Pilot Jim Lovell, and Lunar Module Pilot William Anders—held a live broadcast from lunar orbit, in which they showed pictures of the Earth and moon as seen from their spacecraft. Said Lovell, “The vast loneliness is awe-inspiring and it makes you realize just what you have back there on Earth.” They ended the broadcast with the crew taking turns reading from the book of Genesis.

In 1968 the Vietnam War or Conflict would be the deadliest for US Armed Forces.

“More than 58,000 U.S. military personnel died in the Vietnam War, and by far the bloodiest year was 1968, when 16,899 Americans perished — an average of 46 a day.”

The murders of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Senator Robert Kennedy shocked the nation, especially the young people.  The 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago showed a nation in turmoil and the machinations of a political machine holding desperately to its past.

“As the delegates jammed into Chicago’s downtown hotels, thousands of young demonstrators moved into Lincoln Park. Attempts to get city permits to spend the nights in the park had failed. So each night, police moved in, sometimes using tear gas and physical force to clear them out. At first, the news media focused on events at the Amphitheatre, where tempers flared during debate on the Vietnam War. CBS newsmen Mike Wallace and Dan Rather were roughed up on camera by security guards, causing anchor Walter Cronkite to intone to a national audience, “I think we’ve got a bunch of thugs here, if I may be permitted to say so.”

“The clashes reached a pinnacle on Wednesday, Aug. 28. TV cameramen in the Conrad Hilton Hotel (the former Stevens Hotel) turned their cameras down on the crowd, which chanted “The whole world’s watching.” Someone threw a beer can. Police charged and dragged off protesters, beating them with clubs and fists. “Many convention visitors . . . were appalled at what they considered unnatural enthusiasm of police for the job of arresting demonstrators,” the Tribune reported the next day. It would later be called a “police riot.” That night in his speech nominating George McGovern, Connecticut Sen. Abraham Ribicoff criticized the “Gestapo tactics on the streets of Chicago.” Television cameras zoomed in on an enraged Daley, shouting back at the rostrum.”

Into this year a cartoonist added a character to his famous comic strip Peanuts.  The name was Franklin who met Charlie Brown at the beach.

Of course, introducing an African-American character to a middle-class comic strip had it’s unfair share of backlash.  Black and white children as playmates as well as sharing the same classrooms were an affront to many who believed segregation was the true course for the USA.

These warped views were fostered by faulty reasoning: Was segregation not biblical?  Were not the decedents of Noah’s son Ham cursed in Genesis?  The list continued with specious arguments.

In addition, it did not help that Franklin’s dad was in the military.  He was serving in Vietnam.

According to the sad statistics of the war, over 7000 African-Americans died in the war.  This number is part of the statistics from the National Archives listed below in the links.

In war it makes no difference what color the skin may be because all wounded and dead soldiers bleed red on the battlefields and in the hospitals.  This is why prejudice is so tainted with illogic and irrational thinking and emotion because on this planet traversing the cosmos all people are members of the human race and share the same genome.

All in all 1968 was a tumultuous slice of American history which has not been eased by the passing of decades or the deaths of those involved the events of the year.  The voices of the young are still heard crying for the dreams of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy and the society built on justice and equality for all.

Perhaps, in Peanuts the view of equality did play a small part in the changing landscape of perception of the years to come.  Building a sandcastle on the beach of the cosmic ocean gave a view of what society could accomplish if people worked together.

When we pondered on the wonders of what could be as children, then reaching the stars of our destinies become a common goal.  For children with their dreams and hopes are the innocents on this globe in the dust spirals of the Milky Way.


G. D. Williams © 2018

POST 771

Note: All Peanuts’ images were created by Charles M. Schulz and are under copyright.

‘Peanuts’ First Black Character Franklin Turns 50

Fifty years ago, Charlie Brown lost his beach ball.

It was found and returned to him by a boy named Franklin, and the two proceeded to build a sandcastle together.

The simple encounter of two boys on a beach was how cartoonist Charles Schulz introduced the first black character in his widely read comic strip, Peanuts. It was July 31, 1968 — just months after Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination — and the newest member of the Peanuts gang was a big deal.

…the creation wasn’t just about one comic strip — it also became about providing a mainstream visual for integration in the throes of the turbulent ’60s. And Franklin was born because one woman, in the immediate wake of the Rev. Martin Luther King’s assassination, felt the need to act, and reach out, in some small way, searching for a ray of hope in the darkness of racist and political violence.

He never kicked that football. His baseball team was historically terrible. He got nothing but rocks for Trick-or-Treating. And he was not a noted director of Christmas pageants. Yet Charlie Brown can count one absolute triumph on his resume. Fifty years ago today, Charlie Brown made a friend. That friend, Franklin, broke barriers, infuriated segments of the readership, and remains a radical statement from a tumultuous time. Why? Franklin was the first African-American character in Peanuts.

1968’s chaos: The assassinations, riots and protests that defined our world

The assassinations of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy. The riots that shook Washington, Chicago, Baltimore and other U.S. cities. Campus protests. Civil rights protests. Vietnam War protests. The Tet Offensive. The My Lai massacre. The rise of Richard Nixon and the retreat of Lyndon Johnson. And so much else: Black Power, “The White Album,” Andy Warhol, “Hair,” Apollo 8, the first black character in Peanuts.

1968-1969: Years of Assassinations, Moonwalks and Protests

1968 and 1969 were years defined by the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, American astronauts being the first to walk on the moon, anti-war protests at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago and the New York Jets and the New York Mets were surprise Super Bowl and World Series winners.

Mister Roger’s Neighborhood would be seen for the first time on February 19, 1968.

Vietnam War U.S. Military Fatal Casualty Statistics



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