He wrote dozens of books about the country's dark past of racism and slavery, telling the Africa-American story.
Recently, Franklin's son spoke about his father's legacy.
"That African-Americans were so fundamental to the creation of the United States, the creation of wealth in the United States, of the search for justice and liberty in the United States, melding that history into one history, was I think his great achievement," John W. Franklin said.
A service at Duke Chapel will honor what would have been the 69th anniversary of John Hope Franklin and his wife Aurelia Whittington Franklin.
Clinton appointed Franklin chair of an initiative on race relations, which tackled the legacy of racism in the U.S.
Clinton will speak at the 11 a.m. service. It is open to the public.
You can watch a live broadcast of the ceremony on ABC11.com.