|First appearance||July 31, 1968|
Todd Barbee (1973)|
Robin Reed (1973)
Duncan Watson (1975)
Vinnie Dow (1976)
Tom Muller (1977)
Ronald Hendrix (1977)
Rocky Reilly (1981)
Christopher Donohone (1981-1982)
Kevin Brando (1983)
Carl Steven (1984-1986)
Hakeem Adbum-Samad (1988-1989)
Sean Mendelson (1992)
Jessica Nwafor (1996)
Corey Padnos (2000)
Stephen Scarpulo (2001)
Andreas Glantschnig (2001)
Jake Miner (2003)
Marleik "Mar Mar" Walker (2015)
Caleel Harris (2016)
Franklin Armstrong is a character in the long-running comic strip Peanuts, created by Charles M. Schulz. Introduced on July 31, 1968, Franklin was the first African American character in the strip. He goes to school with Peppermint Patty and Marcie. In his first story arc, he met Charlie Brown when they were both at the beach. Franklin's father was a soldier fighting in Vietnam, to which Charlie Brown replied "My dad's a barber...he was in a war too, but I don't know which one." Franklin later paid Charlie Brown a visit and found some of Charlie Brown's other friends to be quite odd. His last appearance was in 1999, the year before Schulz's death.
A Los Angeles schoolteacher named Harriet Glickman wrote to Schulz on April 15, 1968, urging him to introduce a black character into Peanuts. This began a correspondence between Schulz and Glickman that led to Schulz's creation of Franklin. In an interview in 1997, Schulz discussed receiving a letter from a Southern editor "who said something about, 'I don't mind you having a black character, but please don't show them in school together.' Because I had shown Franklin sitting in front of Peppermint Patty. [...] I didn't even answer him." Franklin's skin color was mentioned in The Charlie Brown Dictionary, a picture dictionary using the Peanuts characters; he was referred to in the definition of "black" in showing a picture of him talking on the telephone, where the color of the telephone is black. The description also says that "black may also refer to Franklin's skin tone, which is also known as a Negro person."
In his initial appearances, Franklin seemed confused by all the strange things in Charlie Brown's neighborhood, especially Linus and his obsession with the Great Pumpkin. Schulz said of Franklin's first appearance, July 31, 1968, when he met Charlie Brown at the beach, "They'd never met before because they went to different schools," adding, "but they had fun playing ball so Charlie Brown invited Franklin to visit him." Franklin quoted the Old Testament, and had no anxieties or obsessions. Franklin and Charlie Brown also enjoyed sharing stories about their grandfathers.
In the animated films and television specials, Franklin is shown to be a skilled dancer. He leads Marcie in a waltz in Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown, performs an elaborate break-dancing routine in It's Flashbeagle, Charlie Brown, and performs another break-dancing number (while also rapping) in It's Spring Training, Charlie Brown. Franklin also seems to possess some musical ability as he is shown playing instruments from time to time. In the holiday special Happy New Year, Charlie Brown!, he is shown playing a guitar at Peppermint Patty's New Year's party.
In other media
As a permanent character of the comic strip, Franklin is also a frequent character in the animated Peanuts television specials and movies. Unlike most characters however, he did not appear in animation until the 1970s with his debut being a silent role in the 1972 movie Snoopy, Come Home at Snoopy's farewell party. His first speaking role is in the 1973 special There's No Time for Love, Charlie Brown, in which he is voiced by Todd Barbee. Other various actors have voiced him ever since.
In a Weekend Update commentary on a 1992 episode of Saturday Night Live, Chris Rock, who hyperbolically stated that Franklin had not said a single word for 25 years, related his own childhood experience as the only black student in his grade school class.
According to the 1994 animated television special You're in the Super Bowl, Charlie Brown, Franklin's family name is Armstrong, making his full name Franklin Armstrong. Schulz did not consider the animations canonical to the strip. Thus, since this is never stated in the comic strip (nor any other special), it is considered apocryphal.
However, while hard core fans say the animated specials don't count since Schultz did not write all of them, it does seem clear that Schultz chose the name Armstrong, naming Franklin after Robb Armstrong, the African-American creator of the comic strip Jump Start. Though much younger, Armstrong knew Schultz professionally. He recounts that in the 1990s Schultz phoned him because a video was coming out for which all the characters needed a last name and he suddenly realized that Franklin did not have one. Schulz asked if he could make "Armstrong" Franklin's last name and Robb Armstrong gave his permission, thinking of it as an honor. From that time onwards "Armstrong" was Franklin's last name.
Franklin reappeared as a supporting character in 2015's The Peanuts Movie.
- Todd Barbee (1973)
- Robin Reed (1973)
- Duncan Watson (1975)
- Vinnie Dow (1976)
- Tom Muller (1977)
- Ronald Hendrix (1977)
- Rocky Reilly (1981)
- Christopher Donohone (1981-1982)
- Kevin Brando (1983)
- Carl Steven (1984-1986)
- Hakeem Abdul-Samad (1988-1989)
- Sean Mendelson (1992)
- Jessica Nwafor (1996)
- Corey Padnos (2000)
- Stephen Scarpulo (2001)
- Andreas Glantschnig (2001)
- Jake Miner (2003)
- Marleik "Mar Mar" Walker (2015)
- Caleel Harris (2016)
- Ha, Thu-Huong (11 December 2015). "The sweet story behind Peanuts' groundbreaking first black character". Quartz. Retrieved 11 December 2015.
- Tom Heintjes (2015-05-17). "Crossing the Color Line (in Black and White): Franklin in "Peanuts" | Hogan's Alley". Cartoonician.com. Retrieved 2015-05-21.
- Evon, Dan (December 24, 2015). "You're a Racist, Charlie Brown?: A closer look at allegations of racism in the comic strip 'Peanuts'". Snopes.com.
- Inge, M. Thomas. Charles M. Schulz: Conversations. University Press of Mississippi, 2000, p. 256. Retrieved August 29, 2012.
- "The World According to Charles M. Schulz", The Austin American-Statesman, January 2, 2001.
- Boxer, Sarah (February 14, 2000). "Charles M. Schulz, 'Peanuts' Creator, Dies at 77". The New York Times.
- "Weekend Update." Saturday Night Live: Season 18, episode 1. NBC, September 26, 1992.
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Charles Schulz and his Peanuts cartoon strip. FiveCentsPlease.org. December 26, 2014
- ART & DESIGN 'Peanuts' First Black Character Franklin Turns 50 Weekend Edition Sunday July 29, 2018