"Franklin is thoughtful and can quote the Old Testament as effectively as Linus. In contrast with the other characters, Franklin has the fewest anxieties and obsessions"
Charles M. Schulz on Franklin
Franklin (unofficially Franklin Armstrong, see Surname) is a supporting male character in the comic strip Peanuts by Charles M. Schulz. Introduced on July 31, 1968, Franklin was the first African-American character to appear in the strip.
Franklin first meets Charlie Brown at the beach. He mentions that his father is a soldier fighting in Vietnam and helps Charlie Brown build a sand castle. Afterwards, Charlie Brown invites Franklin to visit his neighborhood.
Franklin does eventually visit the neighborhood, in a storyline which originally ran between October 15 and October 18, 1968, but finds it a strange environment. During his visit, he initially mistakes Lucy's psychiatry booth for a lemonade stand before asking Lucy if she is qualified to give psychiatric help, becomes puzzled by Snoopy's World War I Flying Ace attire, is told about The Great Pumpkin by Linus and leaves just as Schroeder tries to tell him that Beethoven's birthday will be coming up soon. By the October 18, 1968 installment, he leaves Charlie Brown's side of town saying, "this neighborhood has me shook".
Franklin sits in front of Peppermint Patty at school and plays center field on her baseball team. He acts as a foil for Linus, being equally well versed in the Old Testament. Franklin is also a voice of reason and serves as a rational perspective compared to almost every other character's neuroses, phobias, and character flaws.
Although Franklin does not appear as often as other characters from the other side of the neighborhood (like Peppermint Patty and Marcie) he does appear very often. He appears to have the best friendship with Charlie Brown. They enjoy talking to each other, usually at the wall. The two often have conversations about their grandfathers. On that matter, Franklin's grandfather is apparently a very energetic fellow who enjoys his elder years with the motto, "When you're over the hill, you pick up speed."
Franklin's introduction in the era of race relations and segregation proved to be controversial. When Franklin was first introduced, many people thought he was added for political means, but Schulz insisted, he was introduced as a normal character. Initially, many newspapers threatened to cut the strip, but soon realized Schulz was telling the truth. In an interview, Schulz remembered a particular letter he received about Franklin from a Peanuts reader "who said something about, 'I don't mind you having a black character, but please don't show them in school together.' Because I had shown Franklin sitting in front of Peppermint Patty, I didn't even answer him".
Franklin's skin color, however, is mentioned in The Charlie Brown Dictionary, a picture dictionary which uses the Peanuts characters. Franklin is referred to in the definition of "black" . The picture shows him talking on a black telephone. The definition says that "black may also refer to Franklin's skin tone, which is also known as a Negro person.
One strip from November 6 1974 was accused by some Peanuts fans of showing insensitivity toward African-Americans. The comic strip shows Peppermint Patty practicing her skating while Franklin is busy practicing hockey. Peppermint Patty tells him that he is in the way and she is practicing for a skating competition. Franklin tells her that he is practicing to become a "great hockey player", to which she insensitively responds, "How many black players in the NHL, Franklin?". The strip caused a minor controversy and, although Schulz has told multiple fans that the joke was not meant to be racist whatsoever, many beg to differ. A fan sent Charles M. Schulz a letter regarding the strip, twelve years after it was first published and Schulz sent a terse reply.
In the TV special, You're in the Super Bowl, Charlie Brown, Franklin's last name is revealed to be Armstrong. This, however, has never been mentioned in the strip, and therefore cannot be considered canonical.
In The Peanuts Movie, when the list of test scores is shown, he, Schroeder and "Pig-Pen" are the only ones shown lacking a surname.
Franklin has black, curly hair. He is shown wearing a sweater with long, striped pants. In the summer, he wears a T-shirt. In TV specials and movies, his T-shirt is dark blue and he wears brown tennis shoes and occasionally shorts. In The Peanuts Movie, his shirt is colored orange and he also wears white and yellow tennis shoes. In Peanuts, he wears a red long-sleeved shirt, blue pants, and white shoes. In some media, he also wears a green shirt.
Charlie Brown met Franklin at the beach in 1968. Over the years, they are shown to be very friendly toward one another, often going to movies, playing sports, camping together, and getting ice cream. They also compared their grandfathers to one another.
Linus van Pelt
Peppermint Patty and Franklin are good friends. He plays on her baseball team, and they sit behind one another. Franklin sometimes is confused by Peppermint Patty's way of life, as shown in November 1983. Sometimes, Peppermint Patty uses Franklin to help with homework. In December 1986, she asks Franklin if he would partner with her and Marcie to read "War & Peace". When Franklin asks her what part she will read, she replies "&".
Marcie and Franklin are in the same class, and often make fun of Peppermint Patty of her habit of falling asleep in class. It is hinted that Franklin might have a crush on her, as shown in Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown, where he leads her in a waltz.
Franklin and Snoopy are barely seen interacting together. However, Snoopy often gets confused by Franklin's grandfather's quotes. Franklin was also confused by Snoopy's World War I Flying Ace fantasies.
Franklin is described as quiet and confidant. He is the only character who has never said an unkind word to Charlie Brown, though he did think Charlie Brown's neighborhood was strange. He was shown to be smart, often shown to get As in school, but gets obsessed with his grades and "wastes good worries". He also likes to quote his grandfather's advice, which are often confusing. He claims to play a guitar, and is shown in TV specials to play the drums. He is also shown playing on Peppermint Patty's baseball team, and mentions he is in many extracurricular activities, such as Little League, swim club, and a '4H' club (he claims that he leads a very active Tuesday, which causes him to stress). In a storyline from 1979, he is shown to be a bad speller, entering a spelling bee and coming at 16th place.
Franklin's TV and film appearances
Unlike most of Schulz's characters, who have been featured in animation since the mid-late 1960s, Franklin did not appear in animation until the early 1970s with his debut being a silent role in the 1972 movie Snoopy, Come Home at Snoopy's farewell party. However, he still appears frequently in the animated TV specials and films (both with and without lines), with his most recent appearance being in The Peanuts Movie.
- Snoopy, Come Home (1972) [silent]
- There's No Time for Love, Charlie Brown (1973)
- A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (1973)
- Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown (1975) [silent]
- It's Arbor Day, Charlie Brown (1976) [silent]
- Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown (1977)
- It's Your First Kiss, Charlie Brown (1977)
- It's Magic, Charlie Brown (1981)
- Is This Goodbye, Charlie Brown? (1983)
- It's Flashbeagle, Charlie Brown (1984) [silent]
- Snoopy's Getting Married, Charlie Brown (1985)
- The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show (1985)
- You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown (TV special) (1985) [silent]
- Happy New Year, Charlie Brown! (1986) [silent]
- Snoopy!!! The Musical (1988) [silent]
- This Is America, Charlie Brown (1988-1989)
- Why, Charlie Brown, Why? (1990) [silent]
- It's Spring Training, Charlie Brown (1992)
- It's Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown (1992)
- You're in the Super Bowl, Charlie Brown (1994) [silent]
- It Was My Best Birthday Ever, Charlie Brown (1997) [silent]
- It's the Pied Piper, Charlie Brown (2000) [silent]
- A Charlie Brown Valentine (2002) [silent]
- I Want a Dog for Christmas, Charlie Brown (2003)
- The Peanuts Movie (2015)
- Franklin is one of the many Peanut characters to appear in the video game Snoopy's Street Fair, in which, he owns a test your strength booth.
- Franklin is confirmed to have made at least 125 appearances in the comic strip, despite not appearing in both 1978 and 1982.
- Franklin's profile on the official Peanuts website.
- "Franklin Broke Peanuts' Color Barrier in the Least Interesting Way Possible"
- "Guess Who’s Coming to Peanuts", The New York Times, January 13, 2018