My OBT

What if you spent every day looking for One Beautiful Thing?

Dear Mr. Schulz

27 Comments

Peanuts Worldwide LLC

In mid-2018, the Peanuts character Franklin turned 50. That means that in 1968, amid extreme racial unrest, Charles Schulz took the bold step of inserting into the previously homogeneous world of Charlie Brown et al. a new face of a different color. With no fanfare, with no hoopla, with no self-congratulations, three months after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Schulz literally changed the face of the American comic strip forever.

Interestingly, Schulz had been agonizing for quite some time about whether or not to include a black child in the Peanuts gang. He was worried it would seem patronizing, so he kept putting it off. But a few weeks after the assassination, Los Angeles schoolteacher and mother of three, Harriet Glickman, wrote Schultz a letter asking him to bring a black character into the Peanuts’ world. Her letter began a remarkable conversation.

Courtesy of The Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center

Certainly, not everyone was pleased about the addition. I’m sure Schulz got his share of private hate mail, but publicly, at least, the worst thing anyone had to say about Franklin, who became a permanent part of the Peanuts, was that he was a little boring. I suspect that was Schulz being cautious, but I also think making him just another kid was probably just what was needed.

After Charles Schulz’s death, Harriet Glickman was interviewed about their correspondence. Ever humble, she had this to say:

“You wanted to do something: you felt powerless in a situation like that. I thought, ‘This might be a nice little idea.’”

Wherever you are, bless you both for your courage.

Letters courtesy of The Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center.

Author: Donna from MyOBT

I have committed to spending part of every day looking for at least one beautiful thing, and sharing what I find with you lovelies!

27 thoughts on “Dear Mr. Schulz

  1. This is perfect!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Outside of’ Peanuts’ the comics just aren’t any more.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I was born June 9th, 1940. So I grew up in this era. I was born on St. Louis, MO. There were alll kinds of ethic areas in the city. Black, Irish, German, Italian. I think back than the ‘gay/lesbian’ life had more problems than the blacks did. Red Foxx showed the black community for how good they were. There have been some exceptions but the lesbian/gay life style is still not on non-cable TV. Hal

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Last Thanksgiving Schultz was absolutely blasted on social media for being racist. There was that Thanksgiving episode on TV where Franklin was sitting on one side of the table, alone and in a broken chair, with the white characters on the other side of the table with proper chairs. People (mostly younger generations who didn’t have a cultural context) were furious for Schultz “depicting segregation in a positive light.” In my state there were calls for full on bans of the Peanuts cartoons! It was very sad, but I think your post here will help dispel this notion that Schulz was racist.

    There can be a lot of misunderstandings between generations. Example: I used the term “ghetto blaster” recently to refer to a 1980s style boombox, and I was stunned when I got called out by an elderly person for being an anti-semite. I don’t think anyone in my generation (gen X) has the faintest idea the reference for “ghetto blaster” were loudspeakers used in actual jewish ghettos…goodness gracious! I didn’t even learn this fact until I was 45 years old! Cultural context is *everything.*

    Liked by 1 person

    • I remember that hoopla. I remember thinking that depicting segregation and advocating for it are very different things. I thought his depiction was intentionally sad, not positive.

      That’s interesting about your use of the term ghetto blaster. It never occurred to me to make that connection. Won’t be using that term again!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I agree…I think Schultz meant it to be an intentionally sad depiction of Franklin at a table with white kids (hence the broken chair).

        I truly thought the origin of the word “ghetto blaster” was the 80s boombox, but like you, now that I know where it originated from I’ll never use the term again. Makes me wonder what other things I’m completely clueless about!

        Liked by 1 person

      • I had the same thought. It’s so tricky to think critically about terms and phrases you’ve been hearing and using your whole life.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. This is a beautiful story of how the impact one person can have through simple, small actions. It is quite inspirational in that way. I know I struggle with feeling like I am not doing enough, that I could be doing more, but stories like this are a reminder that lots of little actions can contribute to bigger differences and changes. I also really appreciate the decision to just introduce Franklin as just another kid and not make a point about his race or make a plot line out of his “difference”. It is true to how small kids perceive race but it is also a way of normalising it. I obviously possess white privilege so cannot speak to how significant I assume it must have been for non-white children to see someone who looked a bit more like them in a comic strip or on TV or in a movie or in an advert. I do know that I was very aware as a kid that there were no representations (at least on kids’ TV or adverts) of families that lived like mine, of environments that looked like my home town, or families that were non-traditional like mine. I am, therefore, extrapolating from that experience and from knowing how meaningful it was to encounter a book and movie like ‘Kes’ that was much more familiar.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Growing up in a white, middle-class, traditional family in a neighborhood filled with the same, I am sorry to say I was entirely unaware of any of this until I reached high school and started to experience the wider world. I was always the kid who would befriend anyone who was different from me, but I was completely unconscious of what it was like for them to be different.

      I can only imagine what something like the introduction of Franklin would have meant to people. Thank heaven for people like these two.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I had the same experience as you Donna. In my elementary school there was only one black kid and one chinese kid. Both were in my grade and I was friends with them, and the entire class was friends with each other. I don’t specifically call their race being an issue, but then it never occurred to me to think about things from their point of view until I was older. I wonder if it’s because younger kids are generally more accepting?

        Today my son is in second grade and whites are a minority at his school…the majority are refugees from somalia who practice Islam. The kids all seem to happily play with each and they all go to each other’s birthday parties. My son tells me he doesn’t feel any different than the other kids, and when I asked more specifically about problems arising from different skin colors, he said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” I wonder what the somali kids would say if I asked the same question…while they are a majority at my son’s school, they are a minority in our city.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I think it’s great that some kids still get to be colorblind, but I’m sure you’re right that those Somali kids are having a different experience of the world. It’s lovely that they can experience kindness in their new school. It must be so difficult to be a stranger in a strange land, especially as a small child.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Great story. RE-posted on twitter @trefology

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Just. Wow. Thank you, Donna. This made my day!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. You misspelled his name Schultz several times in this article. There is no letter “t” in his name.

    Like

  9. Thanks for this interesting history lesson.

    Liked by 1 person

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