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When
“Attucks: The School that Opened a City” premieres Aug. 18 at the Madame Walker
Theatre, Lauren Franklin and many members of her family will be in the
audience. They will also watch themselves on the big screen for the first time.

 

There’s
a long lineage of Franklins who either attended or graduated from Crispus
Attucks High School (now Crispus Attucks Medical Magnet High School), which is
one of several storylines in the 90-minute documentary by filmmaker Ted Green
and WFYI.

Lauren Franklin  

During
a recent visit to the school, Franklin rattled off at least 30 family members
(including her parents, both sets of grandparents, and a long list of aunts and
uncles) who are members of the Attucks legacy — and that was before getting to
any of her cousins.

 

While
Franklin didn’t graduate from Attucks (she’s a Broad Ripple grad), she has
served as the school’s principal since the 2015-2016 school year. Being
principal of a school with such a storied history comes with its own pressure,
but it’s compounded when most of your family has deep ties to the school.

 

“What
I can’t do is drag Crispus Attucks into the ground,” said Franklin, jokingly.
“That won’t be acceptable in the Franklin family. So with all of my aunts and
uncles and my parents and grandparents, there’s a different kind of pressure
that you have. But, it’s a good pressure. … I have a real sense of not letting
my family and the community down when it comes to this building in particular,
because I know what it means.”

 

Crispus
Attucks opened its doors in 1927 as the only high school in Indianapolis that
African-Americans could attend. The school was created to separate the black
students who were enrolled at Manuel, Shortridge and Arsenal Technical high
schools. Although expected to fail, for the school’s all-black administrators
and teachers (many who had earned their master’s degrees or Ph.D.s), failure
was not an option for the more than 1,000 students who entered the school that
first year.

 

Instead,
the school produced a bevy of graduates who would later become doctors,
lawyers, musicians and politicians.

 

Franklin
passes by many of them while walking the halls of the school. Their faces,
including those of her family, peer down from the class photos that line the
walls inside the historic building.

 

“I’ve
got tons of people on the walls here,” said Franklin, a longtime IPS educator
and administrator. “You know, when I’m walking down the hall and I’m having a
bad day and I look up and see my mom smiling down at me, and my dad and my
grandmother and my great aunt, that’s pretty cool.”

 

In
“Attucks: The School that Opened a City,” Franklin and her family are actually
shown walking the school’s hallways pointing out several familiar faces.

 

Franklin said she had only been on the job a week when the
school’s alumni association invited her and many of her family to a meet and
greet, where they met Green.

 

“Ted was just fascinated with the story of my family and
thought it brought the Attucks story that he was trying to tell full circle,”
said Franklin.

 

Although she said her family prefers to be in the background
— not in the limelight — they were happy to be part of the film, “because they
have such a love for Attucks and for me. They wanted to make sure that they
supported me.”

 

Franklin admits that while the family is excited to see the
documentary, being part of it is a very humbling experience.

 

“Being part of the Attucks story is (also) very humbling,
but it kind of solidifies the work that I have to do to achieve excellence. My
students and the history of the school deserve my best effort.”

 

She also hopes that seeing the documentary will spark pride
in current Attucks students, who will watch a screening during school on Aug.
19.

 

“I do want the kids to know that they’re in a special place.
They’re on hallowed ground,” said Franklin. “I want them to feel proud that
they’re here.”