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New ‘Peanuts’ special rewrites Franklin’s origin story to address racist past

Franklin Armstrong and Charlie Brown in "Snoopy Presents: Welcome Home, Franklin," premiering Feb. 16, 2024. (Apple TV+)
Franklin Armstrong and Charlie Brown in “Snoopy Presents: Welcome Home, Franklin,” premiering Feb. 16, 2024. (Apple TV+)

After more than 50 years since being introduced, the first Black “Peanuts” character will get his proper due in a new streaming special on Apple TV+.

Premiering Feb. 16, “Snoopy Presents: Welcome Home, Franklin” will explore the origin story of beloved character Franklin Armstrong, who was first introduced to primetime viewers in 1973’s “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.”

While the cartoon’s inclusion of diversity was welcomed in the aftermath of the tumultuous Civil Rights Movement, the show hit a sour note with viewers by segregating its only Black character from the rest of the Peanuts gang — having him seated by himself on a beach chair on the opposite side of the table, during what would’ve otherwise been a festive dinner scene.

But the recently released trailer for the upcoming special takes the racist undertones of yester-century head on with a plot twist. This time, when the Peanuts crew sits down for a similar group meal, there’s a seat at the table for Franklin.

“Hey, Franklin, we saved you a seat over here,” Linus van Pelt says, motioning to a place next to Charlie Brown.

The official synopsis for “Welcome Home, Franklin” describes the character as a military kid who’s new to town. After receiving a notebook from his grandfather filled with advice on friendship — and a few futile attempts at trying to make new pals — Franklin enters a soap box derby race and eventually bonds with Charlie Brown.

Before making his TV debut, Franklin was originally introduced in Charles Schulz’s widely read “Peanuts” comic strip on July 31, 1968 — less than four months after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

According to lore, a white school teacher in California named Harriet Glickman wrote a letter to Schulz in which she urged the cartoonist to add a Black character to the comic in an effort to bridge racial gaps.