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First Black character in 'Peanuts' comic strip gets his own special

"Peanuts" character Franklin Armstrong is the subject of a new Apple TV+ special centered on friendship and good music.
First Black character in 'Peanuts' comic strip gets his own special
Posted at 10:04 PM, Feb 15, 2024

The "Peanuts" comic strip's first Black character is stepping into the spotlight this week with his own Apple TV+ special.

Premiering Friday, "Snoopy Presents: Welcome Home, Franklin" is set to give background on the mild-mannered Franklin Armstrong as he develops friendships, including one with Charlie Brown, after moving into the lead character's neighborhood. 

Franklin was introduced to the "Peanuts" world in 1968 after a schoolteacher urged creator Charles Schulz to add a Black character to his comic strip to promote diversity in the wake of Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination.

Since then, Franklin has remained relatively outside of the story's main arc, but the upcoming special puts him right in the center of it all.

It's set to begin as it did in the original comics: Franklin, whose father's military job has forced him to live in many different places, meets Charlie Brown at the beach after he recovers the lead character's beach ball from out in the ocean.

Soon after, the pair agree to be partners in a soap box derby competition, and in the lead-up, they discover the meaning of friendship, self-love and — most notably — good music.

A preview for the special shows Franklin introducing Charlie Brown to the "Godfather of Soul," James Brown. It's a nod to the blueprint Schulz created for the character, who's been illustrated as a skilled dancer and musician in other "Peanuts" specials.

But on the friendship note, the special will also dive into how Franklin fits into the rest of Charlie's crew while correcting some previous misinterpretations of "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving," according to The Associated Press.

Some viewers have taken Franklin sitting by himself in the 1973 classic as meaning he wasn't part of the gang. And although his initial introduction to the "Peanuts" group goes poorly in the new special, director and story editor Raymond S. Persi told AP that viewers will get the chance to see friendships grow "in real time, in the way that real friendships do," landing with Franklin being specifically asked to sit with the gang at a later celebration.

"Every time [Franklin has] moved, he's had to learn how to make friends quick and that meant that he didn't feel he could ever be his authentic self. So when he comes to this town, his normal tricks don't work because these are kind of weird kids," Persi told the AP. "What I'd like people to get out of it is that you don't have to be something different for other people. Being yourself is what's going to bring the right people into your lives."

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