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

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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)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn C. L. Franklin Oral History Project, 1998-2003 Bentley Historica Library University of Michigan
creatorOf C. L. Franklin Papers, 1957-1991, 1963-1984 Bentley Historica Library University of Michigan
creatorOf Franklin, C. L. (Clarence LaVaughn), 1915-1984. C. L. Franklin papers, 1957-1991 (bulk 1963-1984). University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
referencedIn New Bethel Baptist Church (Detroit, Mich.). New Bethel Baptist Church records, 1979-1988. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
referencedIn Salvatore, Nick, 1943-. C.L. Franklin oral history project, 1998-2002. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
referencedIn New Bethel Baptist Church (Detroit, Mich.). New Bethel Baptist Church records, 1979-2002. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
referencedIn Salvatore, Nick, 1943-. C. L. Franklin oral history project sound recordings, 1998-2002. [sound recording] University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
creatorOf Franklin, C. L. (Clarence LaVaughn), 1915-1984. C. L. Franklin papers, 1957-1991 (bulk 1963-1984). University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Belafonte, Harry, 1927- person
associatedWith Franklin, Aretha. person
associatedWith Franklin, Erma. person
associatedWith Franklin, Erma. person
associatedWith Jackson, Mahalia, 1911-1972 person
associatedWith Jones Prophet. person
associatedWith King, Coretta Scott, 1927- person
associatedWith King, Martin Luther, Jr. person
associatedWith King, Martin Luther, Jr., 1929-1968. person
associatedWith New Bethel Baptist Church (Detroit, Mich.) corporateBody
associatedWith Powell, Adam Clayton, 1908-1972 person
associatedWith Salvatore, Nick, 1943- person
associatedWith St. Marie, Buffy. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Detroit (Mich.)
Michigan--Detroit
Detroit (Mich.)
Michigan--Detroit
Detroit (Mich.)
Subject
Churches
Civil rights
Civil rights
Clergy
Clergy
Parades & processions
Sermons
Sermons, American
African American churches
African American clergy
African Americans
Afro
Afro
Afro
Baptists, Black
Baptists, Black
Occupation
Activity

Person

Birth 1915-01-22

Death 1984-07-27

Americans

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