Obituary: Jane Morgan Franklin
Jane Morgan Franklin, an internationally known historian and peace activist and a former longtime Montclair resident, died of natural causes on Feb. 23, 2023. She was 88.
Ms. Franklin, of El Cerrito, California, was best known for her scholarship on U.S.-Cuba relations. She was also a leader in the antiwar and social justice movements in the San Francisco Bay area in the 1960s and 1970s, and was targeted by the FBI’s secret COINTELPRO program.
She advocated for the normalization of relations between Cuba and the United States, and authored two books that were described by linguist Noam Chomsky as “indispensable for journalists, historians, activists and even American tourists”: “The Cuban Revolution and the United States: A Chronological History” (1992) and “Cuba and the U.S. Empire” (2016).
She also published articles on U.S. relations with Panama, Venezuela, El Salvador and other countries. Her co-edited volume, “Vietnam and America: A Documented History,” was described by The New York Times as a "valuable anthology of crucial texts and records" that "replays the bitter conflict." Her work has been translated into French, Italian, German and Spanish.
Ms. Franklin was a frequent lecturer and radio and television commentator, both in the United States and abroad. She worked as a writer and editor at the Center for Cuban Studies in New York City from 1984 through 2000. She led educational tours to Cuba and was beloved by many in that country for her tireless efforts to halt the economically devastating U.S. trade embargo.
Among her other passions was the arts. She was a radio and print film critic and served as a juror with the American Film Festival in New York City. She hosted a New Jersey radio show, "Jane Morgan at the Movies."
She worked with a nonprofit group called People for Prisoner’s Art to bring the artwork of people behind bars to the attention of the public. She was also a published poet.
Born Jane Ferrebee Morgan in 1934, she grew up on a tobacco farm in Bailey, North Carolina. Her childhood experiences of witnessing racial segregation and feeling the horror of Nazi atrocities in World War II contributed to her fierce, lifelong commitment to social justice, peace and equality for all people.
The daughter of a white landowner, she was forced to end her closest friendship on the farm when the two girls reached puberty. She felt the loss deeply, and the experience made her sensitive to – and determined to fight against – oppression and injustice in all forms.
She was active in the civil rights movement from the early 1960s. Her guiding principle, according to those who knew her, was that speaking up was a moral imperative, and that even one voice in a quiet room could have a powerful impact.
Ms. Franklin was further radicalized by the horrors of the Vietnam War. She wrote that she could not help but see the parallels between the photos that had traumatized her as a young girl, of Jewish children being herded down the street by Nazi soldiers, and the images of Vietnamese children being burned by U.S. napalm bombs.
She helped lead a successful grassroots campaign to stop napalm production at a chemical factory in Redwood City, California, in 1966 and was involved in the U.S. Army deserters network in Paris in 1967.
She abandoned pacifism during the tumultuous 1960s, and with her husband helped found and lead a revolutionary organization called Venceremos in the San Francisco Bay area. Despite never being one to seek the limelight, she was captured in an iconic photo in Time magazine in 1971, clutching an M-1 carbine to her chest.
FBI files obtained through the Freedom of Information Act reveal a sustained campaign of covert harassment aimed at the Franklins, culminating in an armed raid on their Menlo Park home in 1972.
Ms. Franklin moved to New York City after graduating from Duke University in 1955. She was working in the information department at the United Nations in 1956 when she met and married her partner of 67 years, H. Bruce Franklin.
After her husband was fired from his position as a tenured English professor at Stanford University in a free-speech case that the ACLU fought all the way up to California’s high court, the family relocated to Montclair, where they lived for several decades before moving to El Cerrito in 2016.
In addition to her husband, Ms. Franklin is survived by her three children, Karen, Gretchen and Robert, and six grandchildren, Emma, Zephyra, Samantha, James, Maya and Alexandra.
Private services will be held in California in April. A memorial service in Montclair will be announced at a later date.