Franklin emerged as a founding father of African American history and cultural awareness. A distinguished member of numerous faculties, including those of the University of Chicago and Duke University, Franklin received his doctorate in history from Harvard University. Since its sixth edition (1988), From Slavery to Freedom has been coauthored with Alfred A. Moss, a specialist in African American social and religious history with a doctorate from the University of Chicago. For a book of scholarship, it has been an exceptional best seller, appealing to a readership composed not only of academic specialists but also of students, advocates for minorities, and a literate general public.
Numerous scholars and public figures have testified to the intellectual integrity of From Slavery to Freedom, as well as its role in framing their knowledge of and engagement with African American culture. These include David Brion Davis, author of the 1967 Pullitzer Prize-winning The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture; Henry Louis Gates, Jr., head of the Afro-American Center at Harvard University; Eugene Genovese, historian of race relations in American society; James McPherson, Civil War historian at Princeton University; and C. Vann Woodward, author of the 1951 Bancroft Prize-winning Origins of the New South and professor at Yale University.
Franklin received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1995. The following year, The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education cited Franklin as the historian of the century. In 2006, the Library of Congress awarded him the John W. Kluge Prize for lifetime achievement in the study of humanity. The Association for the Study of African-American Life and Culture dedicated the 2007 Black History Month to a celebration of the work of John Hope Franklin.