Barbara Siggers Franklin

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Barbara Siggers Franklin
Barbara Vernice Siggers

(1917-06-29)June 29, 1917
DiedMarch 7, 1952(1952-03-07) (aged 34)
Known forWife of minister C. L. Franklin, mother of Aretha Franklin
C. L. Franklin (m. 1936)
Children5, including Erma, Aretha, and Carolyn Franklin

Barbara Vernice Franklin (née Siggers; June 29, 1917 – March 7, 1952) was the mother of American singer–songwriter Aretha Franklin and wife of C. L. Franklin, the African-American Baptist minister of New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, Michigan.


Born and raised in Shelby, Mississippi, she married Clarence LaVaughn Franklin on June 3, 1936. The couple had children: Erma (1938–2002), Cecil (1940–1989), Aretha (1942–2018), and Carolyn Franklin (1944–1988). Prior to the marriage, Barbara had a son, Vaughn (born December 24, 1934 - died November 7 , 2002) from a previous relationship, whom Rev. Franklin adopted shortly after their marriage. Barbara was a gifted pianist and, according to Mahalia Jackson, one of the finest gospel singers in the country.[1] Though her primary role was that of wife and mother, from the time of her marriage she actively participated in musical affairs of the various churches where C. L. served as pastor.

Marital trouble stemming from C. L.'s numerous and ongoing infidelities, including fathering a daughter (named Carol Ellan Kelley [née Jennings]) by Mildred Jennings, a 12-year-old congregant in Memphis in 1940,[1]:61 Barbara left C. L. in 1948 and moved to Buffalo, New York where her mother resided and where C. L. had served as pastor of Friendship Baptist Church from May, 1944 to June, 1946. She made a life for herself working in a music store, giving private music lessons, and training to be a nurse's aide.[1]:123 Barbara and C. L. never officially divorced.[1]

Although widely misreported, Barbara Franklin did not desert her children. Aretha Franklin disputed that rumor, and Prof. Nick Salvatore of Cornell University takes pains to discredit it in his biography of C. L. Franklin. According to Salvatore, Barbara Franklin made visits back to Detroit, Michigan, to see her children, and during summer vacations they traveled to Buffalo for stays with their mother.[1] Barbara Franklin died of a heart attack on March 7, 1952.[1]:125 She was 34 years old.


  1. ^ a b c d e f Salvatore, Nick, Singing in a Strange Land: C. L. Franklin, the Black Church, and the Transformation of America, Little Brown, 2005, Hardcover ISBN 0-316-16037-7, pg. 59.