Thanksgiving is a holiday of traditions within a tradition. Most tables are adorned with the same foods–turkey, of course, mashed potatoes, corn, and green beans. Those celebrating typically spend the day doing the same things year after year: cooking and watching football.
Another popular turkey day tradition is the airing of Charles M. Schulz’s A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, which tells the story of the Peanuts gang putting together an impromptu meal for the special day after Peppermint Patti invites herself and a few others over Charlie Brown and Sally’s house to celebrate. The classic animated special airs annually on ABC, but this year, as the Daily Mail pointed out, some viewers–many of whom were millennials watching for the first time–gave special attention to the fact that Franklin, the show’s only black character, is sat by himself on one side of the table.
The seating arrangement has been labeled by many as a discriminatory act, and others pointed out that he is the only character that gets sat on a lawn chair rather than one of the dining chairs that the rest of the characters are using.
“How come Franklin, Charlie Brown’s only black friend, sits alone on the other side of the table? And in a lawn chair. #franklin #CharlieBrown #CharlieBrownThanksgiving,” Twitter user @ChefCynthiaC wrote on the social media platform.
wait… my family sat down to watch the charlie brown thanksgiving special and just realized they put franklin (the only black character) by himself at the table… ???? pic.twitter.com/Qqo0DrwYUO
— reginald joseph (@rjoseph08) November 23, 2018
One user even claimed he would no longer watch the special until Franklin’s side gets filled up with more people.
Many were quick to defend the classic Peanuts episode, which first aired on November 20, 1973, citing it’s creator Charles M. Schulz’s fight to introduce Franklin to the cartoon.
“Seriously, please get some historical context. Charles M. Schulz @SchulzMuseum was a trailblazer and bucked racism in those days by adding Franklin to reflect the issue…and challenge what was then going on in society,” Twitter user @marklarsonradio pointed out.
A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving first aired on November 20, 1973, and NOW they get offended? .. Oh Good Grief!!
— JustDave (@TxLobo) November 23, 2018
Despite how the episode is perceived, Franklin was, in fact, a “demand” from Schulz in 1968 after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., the Hill reported. The famous cartoonist was inspired to add the character after a teacher named Harriet Glickman wrote to him asking for a black child to be included in his comic, assuring, the Daily Mail said, that something “as small as him writing a child of color into his work as the friend of a white child could make a radical impact.”
Schulz, who passed away in 2000, was hell-bent on the decision, and once revealed that he threatened to quit when he was questioned about the character by his editor.
“Well, Larry, let’s put it this way: Either you print it just the way I draw it or I quit,” he offered the man. “How’s that?”