This would be on if there were a list of fictional beach meetings with significant cultural impacts. Charlie Brown and Franklin met on a beach in Charles M. Schulz’s famous Peanuts comic strip on July 31, 1968. But did you know that Charles Schulz initially did not want to include a black character in his comic?
For fear of being perceived as condescending, Charles Schulz resisted adding a black character to Peanuts. After Martin Luther King’s death and a letter from a schoolteacher, he changed his mind. Franklin meets Charlie Brown at the beach in his first comic.
The Game Changer
According to the website linked above, Schulz received a letter in April of that year from a Los Angeles schoolteacher named Harriet Glickman, who suggested that Schulz add a Black character to the strip.
Racial tensions were high at the time, with riots, school desegregation across the country, and the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that year.
Schulz responded to Glickman, saying he appreciated the letter and suggestion and liked the idea, but he was concerned about appearing patronizing.
I would be very happy to try, but I am sure that I would receive the sort of criticism that would make it appear as if I were doing this in a condescending manner.Charles Schulz, Creator of Peanuts
However, one of Glickman’s friends, Kenneth C. Kelly, wrote to Schulz that adding a Black character would ease my problem of having my kids see themselves pictured in the overall American scene. Second, it would imply racial amity on a more casual basis.
Schulz introduced Franklin. Charlie Brown and Franklin eventually built a sand castle together, and Charlie Brown inquired about Franklin’s family’s presence at the beach.
“No, my father is in Vietnam,” Franklin said in the comic.
“My Dad’s a barber,” Charlie Brown replied. He was also in a war, but I’m not sure which one.”
Franklin’s mother eventually calls for him, and Charlie Brown tells him to ask his mother if he can spend the night at Charlie Brown’s house to play baseball and build another sand castle. Franklin returned to the comic strip in October 1968 when he went looking for Charlie Brown.
Franklin met Lucy, Linus, and the rest of the gang while Charlie Brown was not immediately at his house. (Source: Click 2 Houston)
The Impact of Creating Franklin
Despite some controversy, Franklin became a fixture in the Peanuts comic strip and subsequent cartoons.
Schulz stated that he received a letter from someone who indicated that they did not like Franklin being shown in the same school as the other characters. In contrast, others suggested that Schulz was racist because of one scene at a Thanksgiving table in which Franklin is sitting alone in a lawn chair on one side of the table, while everyone else is seated together on the other side. Despite some criticism, Schulz’s creation was largely praised.
Following Schulz’s death in 2000, Saturday Night Live actor Tim Meadows played Franklin on the show and paid tribute to Schulz, saying, Charles Schulz understood that regardless of race, we’re all the same. Our heads are as big as our bodies, and our mouths vanish when we turn sideways. (Source: Click 2 Houston)