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Newly-Uncovered Letters From ‘Peanuts’ Creator Are Causing A Major Controversy

The Sunday Paper

For decades, children have looked forward to the Sunday newspaper. It isn’t because they love watching their parents engrossed in the paper, and it isn’t because they enjoy reading world news. Children love the Sunday paper because of the “funny” section, aka the comics. One strip that has been loved by millions for many years is Peanuts.

Charles M. Schultz

The man responsible for Peanuts is Charles M. Schultz. After serving in World War II, he came home to make a name for himself as a cartoonist. He created Peanuts, but from 1947 through 1950, he called the strip, Lil’ Folks. When he signed with United Feature Syndicate in 1950, he changed the name to Peanuts.

A Massive Autobiography

Charles saw Charlie Brown as himself. He also put a little bit of himself in each of the Peanuts characters, including Snoopy. By creating the Peanuts characters, he was essentially creating one of the most complex autobiographies of all time. Each character had their own personality, but there was a bit of Charles in every single one of them. The comic may have been a representation of Charles, but it was also a reflection on American society. However, some people noticed that there was one omission.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Harriet Glickman

Outside the comic strip, in the real world, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was making waves of his own. He fought fiercely for equal rights for African-Americans up until the day that he was assassinated in 1968. In the wake of his death, Harriet Glickman, an ex-teacher and a mother of two, wanted to carry on Dr. King’s mission. She lived in the suburbs of California and wasn’t sure what type of difference she could make from there.

Peanuts-Oriented Family

According to Mary, she was the matriarch of a Peanuts-oriented family. She knew how popular Peanuts was with most people around the world, so she thought that she could use the comic strip to get her message across. In April 1968, she wrote a letter to Charles M. Schultz himself.

The Letter

In her letter, Harriet asked Charles if he could include a black character in his comic strips. She believed that having this representation could “help change those conditions which contribute to the vast sea of misunderstanding, fear, hate, and violence.” Harriet knew that Charles M. Schultz and Peanuts was a household name in the ’60s, and he was likely receiving thousands of letters each day. She didn’t let this stop her, and she thought that it would be worth a try.

Charles’ Reaction

When Charles received Harriet’s letter, it really struck a chord with him. He decided to write Harriet back and explain his feelings on the subject. He told her that he worried that incorporating a black character may be perceived as patronizing to the black community. And he believed that it was time for a black character to join the Peanuts gang, but he wasn’t sure that he was in the position to make it happen.

Recruiting More Help

Harriet understood Charles’ reaction, but she believed that including a black character in the comic strip could make a change. She decided to recruit help to convince him. She called a friend of hers named Kenneth C. Kelly. He was a black father, and he told Charles that the accusation of being patronizing would be a minimal price to pay for all the good that would come of it. He reminded Charles that all of the black people on TV were represented by characters in prisons or ghettos. Every black person on TV fit the stereotype, and Charles could change with Peanuts.

Kenneth’s Letter

In his letter, Kenneth highlighted two things that adding a black character could do. First, he said that it would help the problem he had of having his kids seeing themselves pictured in the overall American scene. He said that it would also suggest racial amity in a causal sense. Three months after Harriet sent her first letter, Charles agreed to create a black character. On July 31, 1968, the first African-American boy made his appearance on the comic strip. His name was Franklin, and Charles did use any stereotypes. Franklin was Charlie Brown’s friend. He was a Peanut.

Push Back

Just as Charles expected, he did get some pushback because of Franklin. His editor told him that Franklin shouldn’t be seen sharing a desk with Peppermint Patty. He told Charles that they were having enough trouble with the South without him showing the kids together in school. Larry Rutman, the president of the United Feature, also had an issue with Franklin, but Charles didn’t go public with his problems until two decades later. He told Charles that he needed to take Franklin out of the comic strip. Charles told him straight out, either you print it the way that I draw it, or I quit. Charles believed in Franklin. Most people didn’t know any of this, and now, newly-uncovered letters from ‘Peanuts’ creator are causing a major controversy.

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