It’s been 50 years this week since Franklin first appeared as the first black character in the Peanuts comic strip as a political statement by creator Charles Schulz in 1968. Just four years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 put an end to segregation, Franklin first appeared alongside Charlie Brown, who, in case there’s anybody who doesn’t already know, is white. But onThe Daily Show With Trevor Noah, Roy Wood Jr. pointed out how Franklin went from a political statement in the comic to a racial stereotype in the cartoon, and he had clips to back up his claim.
In one clip from 1992, four of the characters are doing the Hokey Pokey before a baseball game. Then Franklin enters with a boombox on his shoulder and a backwards hat, and starts dancing and rapping. To this, Wood said, “Why couldn’t Franklin just do the Hokey Pokey, Trevor? You telling me black kids can't put [their] left foot in and take [their] left foot out? It looked like Franklin was auditioning for House Party 2.”
In a clip from 1984, Franklin and one of his black friends, again with a boombox, were break dancing on the sidewalk. In another, this one from 1972, it shows white kids shaking hands with Snoopy at what appears to be a birthday party. But when it got to Franklin, they slapped hands. In another clip, from the 1973 Thanksgiving special, Franklin was sitting by himself on one side of the table while the other kids, and Snoopy, were all on the other side.
So Wood had just one request for future Peanuts cartoons: “The cartoon should honor the original revolutionary spirit of Franklin. If you are going to make him rap, do it right,” Jones said.
They then cut to the clip from earlier where Franklin was rapping, only it wasn’t the original music. This time it was “This Is America,” Childish Gambino’s scathing critique of gun violence and race relations in American society today.