top of page

John W. Franklin


Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage


John W. Franklin is a specialist in the history and traditions of communities of the African Diaspora. A program manager and curator at the Smithsonian's Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, Franklin has developed presentations on Senegal, the Bahamas, Cape Verde, and Washington, D.C., for the annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival.


John W. Franklin has worked on African American, African and African Diaspora programs for the past 24 years at the Smithsonian. Initially, he served as researcher and French language interpreter for the Smithsonian’s African Diaspora program of the 1976 Bicentennial Folklife Festival while living and teaching English in Dakar, Senegal.


Franklin developed symposia and seminars for the Office of Interdisciplinary Studies from 1987-1992. At the Smithsonian’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage he curated Smithsonian Folklife Festival programs on the Bahamas (1994), Cape Verdean Culture (1995), Washington, D.C. (2000) and Mali (2003).


Franklin served on the Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture from 1998 to 2008 and the board of the Reginald Lewis Maryland Museum of African American History and Culture from 2000 to 2009.


He served on the Board of Governors of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies from 2003-2011. He edited, My Life and an Era: the Autobiography of Buck Colbert Franklin with his father, John Hope Franklin.


For the 2012 African Diaspora Heritage Trail conference Mr. Franklin speaks on the topic “Linking Museums to the Places of History and Culture.” The history of Africa and its children in the Diaspora remains hidden and obscured. Daily we walk past places where our history unfolded and see no historic markers of what occurred there. For example in Washington, D.C., my office stands at an intersection where from 1800 to 1862 two private jails held enslaved Africans newly arrived at a pier on the Potomac River several streets away. These men, women and children built Washington, D.C. including the White House and the United States Capitol building. It is imperative that museums be linked to the places where history occurred. Our museums must retrace these steps of the past and tell our children, neighbours and colleagues where our ancestors lived, worked, worshipped and died. This session will explore strategies to develop relationships between museums and historic and cultural sites in the United States, The Americas, The Caribbean, Africa and Europe.


With his father, John Hope Franklin, he co-edited My Life and An Era: The Autobiography of Buck Colbert Franklin. He also served as advisor on the documentary film, Tutu and Franklin: A Journey Towards Peace.

bottom of page