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John Hope Franklin practically created the academic field of African-American studies. The 1947 publication of From Slavery to Freedom, now in its 7th edition, helped transform black history in America from a collection of writings into a coherent discipline. Half a century later, Franklin remains one of the most prominent scholars of the black experience. But his appointment last year to lead President Clinton’s racial-dialogue panel has become the octogenarian historian’s current claim to fame. Instead of basking in the glory of a prolific career, he’s fending off accusations that he’s allowing himself to be used by a president who’s done little for African-Americans. However, he’s doing what a true public intellectual should: Instead of sequestering himself with academics, he’s standing before the people, warts and all. Join him there at 6 p.m. at Vertigo Books, 1337 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. (202) 429-9272. (Michael Schaffer)