The beloved ‘Peanuts’ animated franchise establishes endowments at two HBCUs

Named for the comics’ first African-American character, The Armstrong Project will offer scholarships and mentoring opportunities.

On February 28, comic strip franchise Peanuts Worldwide announced the launch of “The Armstrong Project,” which established $100,000 each in endowments at Howard University and Hampton University.

Left: “Peanuts” character Franklin Armstrong was introduced to the strip in 1968. Right: Cartoonist Robb Armstrong, who inspired the character’s surname.
Illustration: Peanuts Worldwide; Photo: Tito Gibbs

At those HBCUs, The Armstrong Project will award an annual scholarship to students majoring in arts, communications, animation, or entertainment during the 2022-2023 academic year. Beyond the endowments, The Armstrong Project will also provide mentorship and internship opportunities for those students with professionals and companies within the arts and entertainment industries.

The Armstrong Project is named after Franklin Armstrong, the first African-American character in the Peanuts comic strip. The character was developed after Schulz received a letter from Harriet Glickman, a teacher in California, following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Glickman suggested that including Black characters in the comic strip could help change the “vast sea of misunderstanding, fear, hate and violence.” In response, Schulz introduced Franklin in the summer of 1968.

Unbeknownst to many, Franklin’s last name was inspired by creator Charles Schulz’s friend, protégé, and fellow cartoonist Robb Armstrong. A lifelong fan, Armstrong finally met Schulz in 1989, when his own comic was syndicated and he sent his childhood hero a sample. Years later, when in need of a surname for Franklin for a video featuring the character, Schulz asked Armstrong to be the character’s namesake. Like many of Schulz’s friends, Armstrong called him “Sparky.” 

“I’m very excited for the young aspiring artists at these HBCUs whose lives may be changed by Peanuts, just as my life was changed by the inspiration and mentorship of Charles Schulz,” said Armstrong in a statement.

Coincidentally, students benefiting from The Armstrong Project at Howard University are also enrolled in the Chadwick A. Boseman College of Fine Arts, named in memory of the HU alum and Black Panther star. In a statement, Assistant Dean Denise Saunders Thompson expressed gratitude for the opportunities students will have as a result of the initiative, saying: “The goal of our program is to develop an immense range of knowledge, skills and competencies in the area of visual communication through cross-curricular experiences. We are grateful to our partners who help us to meet the needs of the students in preparation for careers in the art industry.” 

Hampton University Chancellor and Provost Dr. JoAnn Haysbert also expressed gratitude for the university’s endowment. “The establishment of The Armstrong Project endowment will ensure our talented and bright students at Hampton studying the arts, communications, animation or entertainment will continue to receive a world-class education for life,” she said. 

The endowments’ namesake by proxy, Armstrong is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, Calif. and the award-winning creator of the “JumpStart” comic strip. He believes The Armstrong Project is yet another way to honor Schulz’s legacy of creativity and inclusion. 

“Sparky was a thoughtful and generous man who took seriously the hopes and dreams of young people,” he said. “It is my belief that he would be thrilled by the potential of The Armstrong Project to help young people fulfill their ambitions.” 

Candice Marie Benbow is theGrio’s daily lifestyle, education and health writer. She’s also the author of Red Lip Theology: For Church Girls Who’ve Considered Tithing to the Beauty Supply Store When Sunday Morning Isn’t Enough. Find her on Twitter and Instagram @candicebenbow.

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