In 1968, Franklin Armstrong Made History—and Created Controversy—By Joining the Peanuts Gang

Franklin Armstrong in The Peanuts Movie (2015).
Franklin Armstrong in The Peanuts Movie (2015).
Twentieth Century Fox & Peanuts Worldwide LLC.

In the summer of 1968, the world was still reeling from the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. And Charles Schulz’s Peanuts characters were at the height of their popularity, having recently starred in their fourth TV special after A Charlie Brown Christmas and It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown had been established as instant classics. Though seemingly unrelated, a schoolteacher in Los Angeles saw a way to bring the two events together.

On April 15, 1968, Harriet Glickman sent a letter to Charles Schulz, which began:

"Since the death of Martin Luther King, I’ve been asking myself what I can do to help change those conditions in our society which led to the assassination and which contribute to the vast seas of misunderstanding, fear, hate, and violence."

She went on to express the importance mass media had “in shaping the unconscious attitudes of our kids,” and how “the introduction of Negro children into the group of Schulz characters could happen with a minimum of impact. The gentleness of the kids … even Lucy, is a perfect setting. The baseball games, kite-flying … yes, even the Psychiatric Service cum Lemonade Stand would accommodate the idea smoothly."

Immediately, Schulz replied; while his response was honest, it’s not what Glickman had hoped for. In Schulz’s letter, dated April 26, 1968, the cartoonist thanked Glickman for her suggestion, but said that by introducing an African-American character, he was "faced with the same problem that other cartoonists are who wish to comply with your suggestion. We all would like very much to be able to do this, but each of us is afraid that it would look like we were patronizing our Negro friends." Schulz closed by stating that, "I don’t know what the solution is."

Undeterred, Glickman wrote back on April 27, acknowledging that Schulz has presented “an interesting dilemma” and requesting “permission to use your letter to show some Negro friends. Their response as parents may be useful to you in your thinking on this subject.”

Schulz was enthusiastic in his support of Glickman's endeavor, noting that he would be “very anxious to hear what your friends think of my reasons for not including a Negro character in the strip,” adding that he would be “very happy to try, but I am sure that I would receive the sort of criticism that would make it appear as if I were doing this in a condescending manner.”

Further missives followed, until Schulz sent a letter on July 1, urging Glickman to check out the paper the week of July 29, noting that “I have drawn an episode which I think will please you.”

On July 31, 1968, Franklin Armstrong made his comic strip debut as the Peanuts’ first Black character, and the first minority character to appear in any major, mainstream comic strip.

Years later, Schulz recalled in an interview that the strips he drew featuring Franklin were some of the only ones that ever resulted in feedback, or pushback, from his editors.

“There was one strip where Charlie Brown and Franklin had been playing on the beach, and Franklin said, ‘Well, it's been nice being with you, come on over to my house some time,’” Schulz recalled. “[My editors] didn't like that. Another editor protested once when Franklin was sitting in the same row of school desks with Peppermint Patty, and said, ‘We have enough trouble here in the South without you showing the kids together in school.’ But I never paid any attention to those things, and I remember telling [United Features president] Larry [Rutman] at the time about Franklin—he wanted me to change it, and we talked about it for a long while on the phone, and I finally sighed and said, ‘Well, Larry, let's put it this way: Either you print it just the way I draw it or I quit. How's that?’ So that's the way that ended.”

Harriet Glickman passed away on March 27, 2020. In reaction to the news, Karen Johnson, director of the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center, paid tribute to the woman who inspired Franklin. "Heroes are hard to come by," Johnson wrote. "I admire a lot of people, but not to the extent to call them a hero. But Harriet Glickman truly is MY hero."

Glickman, too, was immensely proud of the part she played in helping to create the iconic character, stating that, “I often like to say that Franklin is my third child.”

This story has been updated for 2020.

This Innovative Cutting Board Takes the Mess Out of Meal Prep

There's no way any of these ingredients will end up on the floor.
There's no way any of these ingredients will end up on the floor.
TidyBoard, Kickstarter

Transferring food from the cutting board to the bowl—or scraps to the compost bin—can get a little messy, especially if you’re dealing with something that has a tendency to roll off the board, spill juice everywhere, or both (looking at you, cherry tomatoes).

The TidyBoard, available on Kickstarter, is a cutting board with attached containers that you can sweep your ingredients right into, taking the mess out of meal prep and saving you some counter space in the process. The board itself is 15 inches by 20 inches, and the container that fits in its empty slot is 14 inches long, 5.75 inches wide, and more than 4 inches deep. Two smaller containers fit inside the large one, making it easy to separate your ingredients.

Though the 4-pound board hangs off the edge of your counter, good old-fashioned physics will keep it from tipping off—as long as whatever you’re piling into the containers doesn’t exceed 9 pounds. It also comes with a second set of containers that work as strainers, so you can position the TidyBoard over the edge of your sink and drain excess water or juice from your ingredients as you go.

You can store food in the smaller containers, which have matching lids; and since they’re all made of BPA-free silicone, feel free to pop them in the microwave. (Remove the small stopper on top of the lid first for a built-in steaming hole.)

tidyboard storage containers
They also come in gray, if teal isn't your thing.
TidyBoard

Not only does the bamboo-made TidyBoard repel bacteria, it also won’t dull your knives or let strong odors seep into it. In short, it’s an opportunity to make cutting, cleaning, storing, and eating all easier, neater, and more efficient. Prices start at $79, and it’s expected to ship by October 2020—you can find out more details and order yours on Kickstarter.

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8 Things You Might Not Know About Bruce Willis

Bruce Willis.
Bruce Willis.
Daiki Tomidokoro, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

From his turns as unlikely action hero John McClane in the Die Hard series to smaller supporting roles in 1994’s Pulp Fiction and 1995’s Nobody’s Fool, Bruce Willis has consistently surprised audiences with his eclectic career choices. For more on Willis, including his recording career and how he made movie history with 1988’s original Die Hard, keep reading.

1. Bruce Willis was born in West Germany.

Walter Bruce Willis, the son of a military man, was born on March 19, 1955, while his father was stationed in Idar-Oberstein, West Germany. Just two years later, parents David and Marlene Willis moved to Carneys Point, New Jersey, where he spent part of his time in both high school and at Montclair State University trying his hand at acting. After his sophomore year, Willis decided to leave college and head to New York City to pursue a performing career.

2. Bruce Willis may have been one of the best bartenders in New York City.

While auditioning for acting roles and scoring the occasional break—he appeared in an off-Broadway play, Heaven and Earth, in 1977—Willis tended bar at Chelsea Central on New York City's Upper West Side. According to actor John Goodman, who knew Willis before either of them became famous, Willis was notable even then. “Bruce was the best bartender in New York,” Goodman told The New York Post in 2017. “He kept an entire joint entertained all night. He just kept the show going. He was amazing.”

3. Bruce Willis was cast in Moonlighting even though ABC thought the role was “uncastable.”

Bruce Springsteen and Cybill Shepherd in Moonlighting (1985)
Bruce Springsteen and Cybill Shepherd in Moonlighting.
ABC

Willis had done only some stage work and bit parts in movies like 1980’s The First Deadly Sin with Frank Sinatra and 1982’s The Verdict with Paul Newman before he went in to audition for ABC’s Moonlighting, a send-up of detective dramas. At the time, the role of David Addison was proving so difficult to cast that the network was looking to pay creator Glenn Gordon Caron, director Bob Butler, and co-star Cybill Shepherd to abandon the project. Then Willis auditioned, beating out 3000 other hopefuls and securing the part. The series ran from 1985 to 1989.

4. Thanks to Die Hard, Bruce Willis changed Hollywood salaries forever.

While doing Moonlighting, Willis spent his hiatus shooting feature films like 1987’s Blind Date with Kim Basinger. But it was 1988’s Die Hard that cemented him as a big-screen attraction. The action film about a New York City cop trapped in a Los Angeles skyscraper with his estranged wife and a group of terrorists was a hot commodity, and 20th Century Fox agreed to pay Willis the then-astronomical sum of $5 million for the role. (Richard Gere and Clint Eastwood were also considered.) At the time, major stars like Tom Cruise and Michael J. Fox were getting roughly $3 million a picture. The payday for Willis had other performers taking notice, and salaries reportedly went up as a result.

“It was an enormous amount of money at the time,” Willis told Entertainment Weekly in 2007. “And I was a TV actor! The day after I signed the deal, every actor in Hollywood’s salary went up to $5 million.”

5. The Bruce Willis movie Hudson Hawk was based on a song.


Getty Images

Following Die Hard, Willis was a proven box office commodity that could help projects get made. In 1991, he starred in Hudson Hawk, a critical and commercial disappointment about a jewel thief with a love of music who is hired to steal from the Vatican. The film was based in part on a song written by musician Robert Kraft in 1981. Kraft knew Willis, then a bartender and actor, and shared it with him. Over the years, the two continued to shape the song, adding characters and stories. Eventually, it wound up in the hands of screenwriters Stephen De Souza and Daniel Waters.

6. Bruce Willis all but disappeared in Nobody’s Fool.

In contrast to conventional wisdom of the era, Willis parlayed his success as an action hero into opportunities to work with actors and directors he found interesting—even if it meant taking a small supporting role. (Willis spent just 22 minutes onscreen in 1994’s Pulp Fiction as boxer Butch Coolidge.) For 1995’s Nobody’s Fool, he passed on his normal $15 million fee to take $1400 a week since it meant working with Paul Newman. (Newman had forgotten the then-unknown Willis was a bit player in Newman’s 1982 film, The Verdict.) Because Willis felt so strongly Nobody’s Fool was Newman’s film, he opted out of having his photo included in the press kit and his name wasn’t in the production notes.

7. Bruce Willis had his own cartoon series.

In 1996, Willis lent his voice to Bruno the Kid, a syndicated animated series about an 11-year-old spy named Bruno who convinces his handlers he’s really an adult. “Bruno” was Willis’s nickname growing up as well as the name of his musical alter ego. In 1987, Willis released an album, The Return of Bruno, along with a cable special. The cartoon lasted one season.

8. Bruce Willis never finished shooting one of his movies.

In 1997, Willis started shooting Broadway Brawler, a romantic comedy about a washed-up hockey player falling in love. Just 20 days into shooting, Willis used his powers as producer to fire director Lee Grant, Grant’s husband and producer Joe Feury, cinematographer William Fraker, and wardrobe designer Carol Oditz—all reportedly over creative differences. The problems continued even after replacement director Dennis Dugan was brought on board. Rather than continue to waste money on the $28 million movie, studio Cinergi opted to shut it down. Cinergi’s parent company, Disney, absorbed the production costs in exchange for Willis agreeing to star in three Disney movies: Armageddon (1998); The Sixth Sense (1999), Willis’s biggest hit to date; and The Kid (2000).