Franklin, C. L. (Clarence LaVaughn), 1915-1984

Alternative names
Birth 1915-01-22
Death 1984-07-27

Biographical notes:

African-American clergyman active in the civil rights movement in the 1960s; pastor of New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, Michigan.

From the description of C. L. Franklin papers, 1957-1991 (bulk 1963-1984). (University of Michigan). WorldCat record id: 85778609

From the description of C. L. Franklin papers, 1957-1991 (bulk 1963-1984). (University of Michigan). WorldCat record id: 80233065

C.L. Franklin was a nationally known African American clergyman, active in the civil right movement, and longtime pastor of New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, Michigan. He was born Clarence LaVaughn Franklin January 22, 1915 in Sunflower County, Mississippi. While a teenager, he started preaching in rural churches in Mississippi. In 1938, he went to Memphis to become pastor of New Salem Baptist Church. In Memphis, he also attended the Howe School of Religion and LeMoyne College. He later moved to a Baptist church in Buffalo, New York, and while there he took courses at the University of Buffalo.

In 1946, Franklin moved to Detroit where he founded New Bethel Baptist Church. In 1952, his wife Barbara died leaving Franklin to raise their five children: Erma, Carolyn, Aretha, Cecil, and Vaughn.

Franklin gained renown as a preacher whose oratorical skills were responsible in part for the great growth in New Bethel's membership over the next three decades. Franklin's ministry also included radio broadcasts and many of his messages were made available through commercially produced records. Franklin also achieved recognition outside of his own congregation. When preaching in other churches, Franklin often took his daughter Aretha with him. Her talent as a gifted gospel singer reflected on Franklin and the fame of his ministry grew.

Throughout his life, Franklin involved himself politically. He was ever mindful of the needs of both his congregation and of the wider African American community. He was active in civil rights issues and demonstrations and was vocal in his opposition to racism. In 1963, he help to organize and enlist support for the Freedom March led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. down Woodward Avenue in Detroit. The march, which drew more than 125,000 participants, was claimed by some as the prototype of King's march in Washington later in the summer of that same year. A few years later, in 1969, Franklin rented his church to the Republic of New Africa, a militant African American separatist organization. While this meeting was in progress, police and bystanders outside the church exchanged gun fire. One policeman was killed. Subsequently, police stormed the church and arrested 142 individuals all of whom were later released when it was found that their arrests were made improperly. Not all of his congregation were pleased that their pastor had opened the church to this group, but Franklin was forthright in his belief that all groups should be given the opportunity to present their views.

In 1979, Franklin confronted burglars who had broken into his home. Franklin was shot twice and went into a coma that would last more than five years. He died July 27, 1984.

From the guide to the C. L. Franklin Papers, 1957-1991, 1963-1984, (Bentley Historical Library University of Michigan)


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Ark ID:


  • Afro--American clergy--Michigan--Detroit
  • Afro--American churches--Michigan--Detroit
  • Civil rights
  • Parades & processions--Michigan--Detroit
  • African Americans
  • Baptists, Black--Michigan--Detroit
  • African American churches
  • Clergy
  • Baptists, Black
  • African American clergy
  • Civil rights--Michigan--Detroit
  • Afro--Americans--Michigan--Detroit
  • Clergy--Michigan--Detroit
  • Churches--Michigan--Detroit
  • Sermons, American
  • Sermons


not available for this record


  • Detroit (Mich.) (as recorded)
  • Michigan--Detroit (as recorded)
  • Detroit (Mich.) (as recorded)
  • Michigan--Detroit (as recorded)
  • Detroit (Mich.) (as recorded)