When “Peanuts” creator Charles Schulz introduced the first Black “Peanuts” character, Franklin Armstrong, in 1968, the new character offered Black children an opportunity to see themselves in the paper. Decades later, Franklin’s likeness is helping Black college students pursue careers in animation as part of The Armstrong Project.
Formed in 2020 from a collaboration between Peanuts Worldwide and the multicultural marketing agency Native Tongue Communications, the initiative aims to provide $10,000 scholarships to students who are majoring in animation, arts, communication or entertainment. Aside from scholarships, students will have access to corporate mentorship and internship opportunities in the fields of animation and entertainment. So far, the program, which officially launched last year, granted scholarships for the 2022-23 school year and established $200,000 in endowments for two historically Black colleges and universities, or HBCUs.
Robb Armstrong, the creator of the comic strip “JumpStart” and a longtime friend and colleague of Schulz’s, was an early supporter of the program.
“I’m very excited for the young aspiring artists at these HBCUs whose lives may be changed by ‘Peanuts,’ just as my life was changed by the inspiration and mentorship of Charles Schulz,” Armstrong said in February. He also noted that Schulz was “a thoughtful and generous man who cared about the hopes and dreams of young people,” saying, “It is my belief that he would be thrilled by the potential of The Armstrong Project to help young people fulfill their ambitions.”
The first scholarship recipients are Hampton University student Promise Robinson, 21, and Howard University student Hailey Cartwright, 19, according to NPR.
Cartwright explained how Franklin had a profound impact in her life.
“If he wasn’t there, in the direction I want to take my career, in animation, would I even have a chance? I just wonder,” Cartwright told NPR.