1 The Muppet Mindset: Weekly Muppet Wednesdays: Roosevelt Franklin

Apr 11, 2012

Weekly Muppet Wednesdays: Roosevelt Franklin

Today's Weekly Muppet Wednesdays post is written by Michael Wermuth, Jr. If you would like to contribute to Weekly Muppet Wednesdays, email us at muppetmindset@gmail.com

ROOSEVELT FRANKLIN

Performed by...
Matt Robinson (voice only)

First appearance...Sesame Street Season 1 (1969)

Most recent appearance...
Sesame Street Season 7 (1975)

Best known role...
Son, brother, teacher, coach, singer, lover of scat, rhyme, and the blues.

Memorable quote...
"I heard someone call me by both my names. My first name first and my last name second."

WHO IS ROOSEVELT FRANKLIN?
Roosevelt Franklin is an African American Muppet who appeared on Sesame Street throughout its first seven seasons. Many of his early segments paired him with his mother, his younger sister, Mary Frances Franklin, or his younger brother, Baby Ray Franklin. In these early segments, Roosevelt Franklin often sang or recited poetry. Roosevelt and his mother would sing about the alphabet, numbers, bears, and many other things.

In later appearances Roosevelt would appear alongside his friends and classmates, who included Hard Head Henry Harris, Smart Tina, and Baby Bree Boo Bop A Doo. Roosevelt would often act as teacher in the classroom, and it is unknown who or where the actual teacher was. Also of interest is the fact that the school was named Roosevelt Franklin Elementary School. At Roosevelt Franklin Elementary, Roosevelt and his friends enjoyed some raucous fun as Professor Franklin taught about poison, traffic, Africa, and various other subjects.

Not only was Roosevelt Franklin the namesake for the school he went to, but also a sports stadium, where Roosevelt's friends played in a game called Headball, in which they answered questions such as "What is bread made of?"

Roosevelt Franklin was so popular in the early days of Sesame Street that he was the first Muppet character to headline his own album, The Year of Roosevelt Franklin (1971). Although he was extremely popular with audiences, Roosevelt Franklin was eventually dropped from Sesame Street because of concerns over stereotype. Although he was removed from the show, he continued to appear in illustrated books over the years, and also pops up on the occasional piece of retro Sesame Street merchandise.

ROOSEVELT FRANKLIN SONGS
  • "Roosevelt Franklin Counts"
  • "Roosevelt Franklin's Alphabet"
  • "Roosevelt Franklin's Days of the Week"
  • "The Safety Boy Blues"
  • "Just Because"
  • "A Bear Eats Food"
  • "Me and You"
  • "Old King Midas"
WHY DOES SESAME STREET NEED ROOSEVELT FRANKLIN?
Roosevelt Franklin was a fun character for the viewers to watch, and his cool-ness made him an effective teacher. He was good at rhyming, good at teaching opposites, and good at teaching his classmates. He sometimes taught pride, and was proud of his heritage. If not for concerns over his race he'd probably still be on the show today. He would fit well in today's Sesame Street, where we have songs such as "I Love My Hair" that show pride. Roosevelt would be a great element to return to the Street, especially in today's much more tolerant and accepting society.






The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier, muppetmindset@gmail.com

2 comments:

  1. I often wonder if it was truly a race issue, and not due to Matt Robinson's declining health that lead to Roosevelt being retired...

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    Replies
    1. Roosevelt Franklin was retired in the mid-1970's because many parents complained that he was a poor role model for children...too "laid-back" and not serious enough. Personally, I always liked Roosevelt. When I was a boy I listened to his LP recording. He had positive messages for kids and taught us important lessons.
      The declining health of Matt Robinson began many years after the demise of Roosevelt. May Mr. Robinson rest in peace, and may we always remember Roosevelt Franklin.

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