Harriet Glickman, 1926-2020

Franklin

Harriet Glickman, the woman who had suggested to Charles Schulz that he add an African-American character to the strip and thus inspired the creation of Franklin, passed away this morning. Her death was peaceful, in her sleep, and she had been well prepared for this.

Harriet Glickman, about ten years ago. Photo by David Folkman.

I got to know Harriet while I was working on The Peanuts Collection, interviewing her for material that ended up in both that book and in an article in Hogan’s Alley magazine. I was lucky in that we ended up bring friends, and in recent years had been meeting every couple months, at her home… which was the same home where she wrote those letters to Schulz, over half a century ago. During the time that I knew her, I saw her go through some trying times, as her husband fell into Alzheimer’s then passed away. But I got to see her do a lot of caring, be loved by her large family.

She had been a teacher then a housewife and mother before she sent Schulz those letters in 1968, and would go on to be on the local Fair Housing Commission board. She worked for a long time for  Southern California Association for Philanthropy. Even after retiring, she tried to find ways to matter, doing things like hosting an event for a preferred political candidate or trying to help me reach out to educators about the Negro Motorist Green Book, which I was reprinting. As we talked about her impending demise, the biggest regret I saw in her was that she would not make it long enough to cast a vote to oust the current administration.

With the publication of my articles, she started to gain attention, and this increased greatly when The Peanuts Movie was coming out. She was always grateful for the attention, felt reenergized by it. The thought that anything she had done along her years was still bringing her attention was clearly a source of joy.

I am glad that I got to know her, to spend time with her, to introduce her to some of my people and to meet some of hers (her sister, the Broadway actress who you might recognize from Law and Order; her kids, including ones working in TV and radio; and her grandkids. An impressive bunch.)

At this point, I try to see the passage of older people more as a chance to be glad they were in my life or in the world, rather than as a time for sadness. But in this case, it is a struggle.

But I am glad she was around.

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