Fifty years ago today, Charlie Brown lost his beach ball, and it was returned by a friendly boy named Franklin. Charlie and Franklin built a sandcastle together and quickly learned they both liked baseball. That chance meeting on a beach was how Charles Schulz chose to introduce the first African-American character to the Peanuts gang in a July 31, 1968 strip.
NPR's Morning Edition recently did a piece about Franklin's debut, which inspired cartoonists like Robb Armstrong, who went on to create JumpStart and formed a friendship with Schulz. According to the NPR story, the Peanuts creator was apprehensive about adding Franklin to the strip because he didn't want it to come off at patronizing. Over the years, some have criticized the Franklin character as being overshadowed by the antics of Peppermint Patty and the rest of the Peanuts gang.
Armstrong doesn't see it that way.
"I think Schulz played it smartly," he told NPR. "He was always very thoughtful into how he trated his characters."
Below are some of our favorite Peanuts comics featuring Franklin. You can find more here on GoComics.com. Happy birthday, Franklin!