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Kenneth Kelly And His Role With Franklin Armstrong

April 4, 2021

Readers know I appreciate a well-written and informative obituary. That was the case again today in the Sunday newspapers.

In 1968, not long after the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Mr. Kelly was approached by Harriet Glickman, a white, socially conscious colleague on the fair housing council. She had reached out to Charles M. Schulz, the creator of “Peanuts,” to ask if he would consider adding a Black character. Mr. Schulz had politely demurred, saying it might seem patronizing.

Undeterred, Ms. Glickman thought that Mr. Kelly might have more luck if he made the same appeal to Mr. Schulz. In a letter to him, Mr. Kelly argued for a Black character who would be just one of the gang, a “supernumerary” whose skin color would be incidental.

“An accusation of being patronizing,” he wrote, “would be a small price to pay for the positive results that would accrue!”

His words won Mr. Schulz over, and Franklin Armstrong debuted in “Peanuts” on July 31, 1968, as a friend of Charlie Brown who just happened to be Black.

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