Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving Table Is Not Racist
Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving Table Is Not Racist
In the classic show A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, Charlie Brown is roped into throwing a Thanksgiving dinner by Peppermint Patty – who invites herself, Marcie, and Franklin over for dinner – even though all he can serve his guests is toast, pretzels, and popcorn.
“I can’t cook a Thanksgiving dinner. All I can make is cold cereal and maybe toast.” – Charlie Brown #charliebrownthanksgiving
— PEANUTS (@Snoopy) November 22, 2018
I should know the plot; I’ve only watched this show about 100 times since Halloween ended and my kids promptly switched to the next Peanuts DVD in our collection.
But apparently, there’s a rumor that just won’t die: that Charlie Brown, or strip creator Charles Schulz, is a racist because Franklin sits all by himself in a folding chair on one side of the table.
ABC aired A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving as part of their pre-holiday programming, and fans had some issues with the classic special.
The classic television special based on the Peanuts comic strip originally aired back in 1973 and continues to be essential programming for American families, along with the other specials 1965’s A Charlie Brown Christmas and 1966’s It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.
However, 2018 audiences did not stay silent to some controversial scenes from the show, with many labeling the program as “racist” on social media.
“Watching Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving is hard knowing they put my n— Franklin at the end of the table by himself,” one Twitter user wrote.
“Watching A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving as I always do and I’m tight [as f—] every year because they give Franklin a freaking folding pool chair to sit on while everyone else has a comfy chair,'” another user commented.
One particular scene did not sit well with viewers as the Peanuts cast united for the holiday feast when Franklin, the only African American member of the cast sits on his own on one side of the table.
The confusing seating arrangement for the dinner left many viewers concerned as to what message the vintage television special showed its younger audiences.
“How come Franklin, Charlie Brown’s only black friend, sits alone on the other side of the table? And in a lawn chair,” another user commented.
You know how long this slander has been going around? Since at least 2015, because that’s when Snopes published an article about it, telling the story of Franklin and declaring the slander as false.
And people forget that the lawn chair that Franklin sits in was a huge comedic moment earlier in the show.
After that fight, it’s a wonder that the chair can actually still have anyone sit on it.
But more to the point – the character of Franklin turned 50 years old earlier this year. Here’s a brief history of how he was created.
Martin Luther King Jr. had been dead 11 days.
His assassination fresh on her mind, Harriet Glickman, a teacher raising three kids in suburban Los Angeles, sat down at her typewriter.
“Dear Mr. Schulz,” she wrote, “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 sea of misunderstanding, hate, fear and violence.”
Mr. Schulz was Charles Schulz. Glickman thought the creator of the popular Peanuts comic strip could play a small part in promoting tolerance and interracial friendship by including a black character in his strip.
She sent off the letter, not expecting a reply.
Schulz did write back, to say he had considered her suggestion. But he worried that if he created such a character, black parents might think he was condescending to their families.
With Schulz’s permission, Glickman asked two of her black friends to send him some ideas on how to make a black character relatable.
A few weeks later, the cartoonist responded.
“You will be pleased to know that I have taken the first step in doing something about presenting a Negro child in the comic strip during the week of July 29,” Schulz said. “I have drawn an episode which I think will please you.”
Just like that, Franklin was born.
July 31, 1968. Franklin's first appearance. pic.twitter.com/q3uNF9iqYV
— Peanuts On This Day (@Peanuts50YrsAgo) July 31, 2018
— Leshelle Sargent (@Publicist_LVS) August 1, 2018
Franklin is just a regular kid, being treated by the other kids like any other kid in the strip. He might not have excessively quirky characteristics, and he ends up playing the straight man, but his presence in the Peanuts universe is simply normal. I am so tired of the “woke” of 2018 looking back at cultural touchstones like A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and coming away with social justice lectures instead of any kind of feeling of fun or gratitude – especially considering that Charles Schulz staked his strip on Franklin’s inclusion.
In a 1988 interview, Schulz told the story of how the president of United Features, Larry Rutman, the syndicator for Peanuts, wanted him to get rid of Franklin.
Later on, when Franklin was introduced into the strip, the little black kid—I could have put him in long before that, but for other reasons, I didn’t. I didn’t want to intrude upon the work of others, so I held off on that. But I finally put Franklin in, and 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.” Again, they 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 Larry 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. But I’ve never done much with Franklin, because I don’t do race things. I’m not an expert on race, I don’t know what it’s like to grow up as a little black boy, and I don’t think you should draw things unless you really understand them, unless you’re just out to stir things up or to try to teach people different things. I’m not in this business to instruct; I’m just in it to be funny. Now and then I may instruct a few things, but I’m not out to grind a lot of axes. Let somebody else do it who’s an expert on that, not me.
The world of Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and their friends is simpler and more uncomplicated than the world of 2018. It’s also a lot nicer of a place to be, especially considering Charlie Brown’s grandmother ends up inviting all of her grandson’s guests to Thanksgiving dinner at her condo at the end of the show. Even Franklin. Where, presumably, everyone sits in a real chair around a real table, with a real Thanksgiving dinner.
May we all be as generous as Charlie Brown’s grandmother on this Thanksgiving.
Welcome Instapundit Readers!
Featured image: A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (image via screenshot from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment YouTube channel)