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'Peanuts' Celebrates 47th Anniversary of African-American Character

What a difference a letter makes.

Forty-seven years ago, "Peanuts" creator Charles M. Schulz introduced the comic strip's first African-American character, Franklin Armstrong, after a school teacher in Los Angeles wrote to him asking for the addition.

Following the death of Martin Luther King Jr., Harriet Glickman sent a note to Schulz urging him to include an African-American character in the comic strip, so on July 31, 1968, Franklin was born.

The character, Schulz said, represented the importance of desegregation.

So today is officially National Franklin Day.

"I think Schultz created this character as he didn't want to make him a Lucy," Glickman said in a press conference interview earlier this month. "He didn't want to make him a Linus or Schroeder. He was just this good friend to Charlie Brown—a kind friend and I think that was the introduction he wanted to give."

Franklin is one of several famous "Peanuts" characters who will be appearing on the big-screen incarnation of the comic strip, "The Peanuts Movie," which opens in theaters November 6. Mar Mar voices the role of Franklin.

When asked why the "Peanuts" characters still resonate today, Glickman said that the comic strip touched on timeless topics.

"Because children are children," she said. "That's the only answer I can think of really. They go through the same things in growing up that they did 50 years ago. And they are scared of things and they have insecurities. And they have smart friends and strong friends and that's why I think it's lasted."

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