Barbara Siggers Franklin

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Barbara Siggers Franklin
Born Barbara Vernice Siggers
(1917-06-29)June 29, 1917
Shelby, Mississippi, U.S.
Died March 7, 1952(1952-03-07) (aged 34)
Buffalo, New York U.S.
Cause of death Heart Attack
Known for Wife of minister C.L. Franklin, Mother of Aretha Franklin
Spouse(s) C.L. Franklin (m. 1936–52)
Children Erma Franklin, Vaughn Franklin, Cecil Franklin, Aretha Franklin, 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 C.L. Franklin on June 3, 1936. The couple had three daughters and one son: Erma (1938–2002), Cecil (1940–1989), Aretha (b. 1942), and Carolyn (1944–1988). Prior to the marriage, Barbara had a son, Vaughn (born on December 24, 1934) 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 a daughter he fathered (named Carl Ellan Kelley (née Jennings)) by Mildred Jennings, a 12-year-old congregant in Memphis in 1940),[1]:61 caused Barbara to leave C. L. in 1948. She moved to Buffalo, New York (where her mother resided and where C.L. served as pastor of Friendship Baptist Church from May 1944 to June 1946), making 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]

Though it has been widely reported that Barbara Franklin deserted her children, Aretha Franklin has disputed that rumor, and C. L. Franklin's biographer, Prof. Nick Salvatore of Cornell University, takes pains to discredit it. According to Salvatore, Barbara Franklin made visits back to Detroit, Michigan to see her children, and during their 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, p. 59.