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Auburn University's first Black student receives a historic marker

Harold A. Franklin, the university's first Black student, will be honored with a marker and dedication ceremony.
Harold A. Franklin,W.V. Parker
Harold A. Franklin during the registration process to become the first Black student at Auburn University in Alabama on Jan. 4, 1964.AP file

Auburn University will honor Harold A. Franklin, the university’s first African American student, with a desegregation marker dedication ceremony.

The ceremony will be held on Thursday at the Ralph Brown Draughon Library where a plaza was recently created to accompany the marker, WSFA-TV reported.

Image: Harold A. Franklin
Harold A. Franklin.Auburn University Photographic Services

Scheduled to speak at the event are Franklin’s son, Harold Franklin Jr., Auburn University President Jay Gogue, Auburn Board of Trustees member Elizabeth Huntley and Kenneth Kelly, a 1990 Auburn graduate and chairman and CEO of First Independence Bank of Detroit.

The honor comes two months after Franklin’s death. He was 88.

Franklin integrated Auburn as the university’s first Black student on Jan. 4, 1964. He was a Graduate School enrollee who went on to a successful 27-year career as an educator in higher education after leaving Auburn in 1965. He earned a master’s degree in international studies from the University of Denver and taught history at Alabama State University, North Carolina A&T State University, Tuskegee Institute and Talladega College before retiring in 1992.

Image: Harold A. Franklin
Harold A. Franklin enters Magnolia Hall on the campus of Auburn University in Alabama on Jan. 4, 1964, prior to registering as the school's first Black student.AP

Franklin initially was not allowed to defend his thesis at Auburn, a wrong that was righted last February and he participated in fall 2020 commencement exercises. In 2001, Auburn awarded Franklin with an honorary Doctor of Arts and in 2015 erected the historic marker near the library where he first registered for classes.

The Nov. 11 event is open only by invitation but the public can watch the ceremony online.