Shirley Franklin may not be the first name that comes to mind when thinking of advancements in racial or sexual equality, but she is important to both and spoke at Trinity University this past Tuesday. Shirley Franklin was Atlanta’s first female mayor and the first African-American mayor of a major city in the southern United States.
Franklin came to Trinity in order to speak at the “Faith, Civil Rights, and a Call to Action: The Legacy of Claude W. Black Jr.” event that Trinity hosted. The event was put on by the university because of its recent acquisition of the Claude and ZerNona Black papers. These are a collection of papers that document the Civil Rights Movement and the couple who gives them their names’ role in San Antonio and much of the South.
Franklin spoke on her experiences as a pioneer for civil rights and what she saw and experienced in the Civil Rights Movement as well as her knowledge on the authors of the Black Papers.
Franklin also touched on what she knew of Claude and ZerNona Black in her lecture.
“He (Claude) and his wife (ZerNona) are figures that are often overlooked and not talked about as much as they should be when it comes to the Civil Rights Movement,” Franklin said. “They organized countless marches in what was a segregated San Antonio and endured many threats to their family and selves. A drive-by shooting occurred at their home and their church was burned. Despite these hardships, they persevered and strove to make a difference in their community, which I think should always be the goal of a leader.”
The crowd was sizable and was engaged in the presentation.
“I had no prior knowledge of who Shirley Franklin or the Black family were, but now I have a profound respect for both,” said audience member Andre Wilson. “Franklin was an enlightening speaker, and the entire presentation was very interesting and informative.”
Franklin also spoke about her time as mayor of Atlanta, which lasted from 2002-2010, during which she made Atlanta one of the greenest cities in America and helped take the city out of a massive deficit. She faced the struggles that many African Americans face when entering into politics, as well as the difficulties that women face.
“Her time as mayor was highly successful, and she was voted one of the five best mayors in the country. This is incredibly inspirational since she had the weight of two kinds of stereotypes on her shoulders in a part of the country where stereotypes sometimes can seem like the norm,” said audience member Anne Spears. “Her work is truly wonderful to see, and you have to admire her.”
Franklin is now Chairman of the Board and CEO of Purpose Built Communities. She is also on the board of Delta Airlines and Mueller Water Products, Inc. and a host of other civic organizations.