Peanuts is undoubtedly the most popular comic strip of all time. We love Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Lucy, Linus and their group of friends. For about half a century, children tore open the Sunday newspaper to find the comics section. But in recent years, it was revealed that a fan wrote a personal letter to Peanuts creator, Charles Schulz, pleading for him to make one change to his comics. Did he listen?
Charles Schulz loved drawing since he was a young boy. So, it’s no wonder he decided to become a full-time cartoonist. Between 1947 and 1950, Schulz drew regular cartoons as a weekly series of one-panel jokes, called Lil’ Folks, in the St. Paul Pioneer Press. It was in this series where he first introduced the name Charlie Brown. The series also featured a dog that closely resembled Snoopy.
In 1948, Schulz began submitting one-panel drawings to The Saturday Evening Post. In 1950, the cartoonist approached United Feature Syndicate with his one-panel series to consider national syndication. Schulz revised his series, changing it into a four-panel series, as well as naming it Peanuts.
Peanuts made its first appearance in seven newspapers on October 2, 1950. Then, on January 6, 1952, the comic strip was added to the weekly Sunday page in national newspapers. While it had a slow start, Peanuts eventually became one of the most popular comic strips of all time. Schulz identified with Charlie Brown, but he was also in every Peanuts character—even Snoopy. The comic strip became a symbol of American society, but someone noticed a striking omission. They decided to request a change.
Being More Inclusive
During the 1960s, the Civil Rights Movement sparked interest across the country. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was an impactful figure, empowering others to fight for racial diversity. Following King’s assassination in 1968, a follower and mother of three, Harriet Glickman, realized there wasn’t an African-American character featured in Schulz’s comic strip. In April 1968, Glickman wrote a personal letter to Schulz, asking him to consider including an African-American character into the weekly strip.
Glickman, who revealed the letter exchange in 2015 while promoting The Peanuts Movie, said this representation would “help change those conditions which contribute to the vast sea of misunderstanding, fear, hate, and violence.” While Schulz received many letters from fans, he knew he had to respond to this request. He commented that he understood this change needed to happen, but he was uncertain he was in the position to make this decision. After all, he didn’t own the newspapers. He had to obey certain rules.
Glickman understood Schulz’s concern. With his permission, she asked two of her African-American friends to send Schulz some sketch and writing ideas on how to make a black character more relatable. Schulz responded, confirming he had begun the process of including a black child in his popular comic. Finally, on July 31, 1958, an African-American boy named Franklin made his first appearance in Peanuts. He wasn’t a background character. Instead, he was Charlie Brown’s friend. He talked to people. He was a Peanut.
Best Character Of Them All
Schulz’s inclusion of an African-American character has been widely recognized and appreciated in 2019, over 50 years later. People understand that characters like Franklin help demonstrate that all children (regardless of race or identity) are part of the fabric of our country. In 2018, in honor of the character’s 50th birthday, fans (including @the_maurcus) shared their comments on Twitter about why Franklin was “the best character from Peanuts.”
Another user (@KellybeeHTX) commented, “I was a huge ‘Peanuts’ fan as a kid, and the introduction of Franklin to the strip was a really big deal to me.” Finally, user (@MaryCummins1) shared that Franklin’s introduction was “just two kids relating to each other normally and kindly.”
That was the main purpose of the character–to introduce that people of different races can co-exist and be friends. For the past 50 years, diversity has become more intricate in pop culture. We can only imagine what new characters will be created from here.
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