DURHAM, North Carolina (WTVD) -- A section of Interstate 85 in Durham was dedicated in honor of civil rights leader, historian and Presidential Medal of Freedom honoree Dr. John Hope Franklin on Monday afternoon.
The dedication ceremony was held at the Hayti Heritage Center in Durham in front of a large crowd that included Gov. Roy Cooper, former U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, Congressman G.K. Butterfield and Durham Mayor Bill Bell as speakers.
Signs are now up along I-85, naming the section of highway between the U.S. 70 Bypass and Cole Mill Road in Dr. Franklin's honor. A replica of the signs was unveiled by family members during today's event. Dr. Franklin died at the age of 94 in 2009.
"We in Durham consider him ours," Bell said, and he added, "(for him) to be a part of our lives, we are forever grateful."
Franklin was a part of the NAACP legal efforts in the 1954 "Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education" case when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that state laws allowing separate public schools for black and white students are unconstitutional.
He also took part in the famed 1965 civil rights march led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. from Selma, Ala. to the steps of the Alabama Capitol in Montgomery. Among his numerous awards is the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, North Carolina's highest honor for exemplary service to the state and the local community.
Franklin's academic background included a bachelor's degree from Fisk University, and then a master's degree and doctorate from Harvard University. He spent time teaching at St. Augustine's College (now University) and the North Carolina College for Negroes, which is now North Carolina Central University, as well as Brooklyn College, Howard University, the University of Chicago, Cambridge University in England, and Duke University. At Duke, he established the Durham Literacy Center and served as a professor emeritus.
Franklin's legacy continues at Duke through the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture, as well as the John Hope Franklin Center for Interdisciplinary and International Studies, and the Franklin Humanities Institute.