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Child of the Gospel

The Daughter Of A Preacher Man

C.L. Franklin grew up in Mississippi. After leaving high school in the tenth grade, he began working as a sharecropper, traveling seasonally to pick cotton and other crops. Even as a young man, C.L. was known for his powerful speaking voice and his ability to inspire people with his words. He started preaching when he was seventeen years old. Before long, he was able to make a living as a preacher and he settled briefly in Clarksdale, Mississippi.

Before Aretha was born, the Franklin family moved to Memphis, Tennessee, where her father attended LeMoyne College. Though he had been raised in a very religious household, C.L. Franklin's experiences traveling and attending college expanded his horizons. He appreciated many different points of view, and he loved the arts, especially music. Reverend Franklin's love of artistic expression was passed on to his children, especially his daughters, who were all musically gifted.

Soon after Aretha was born, the Franklins moved to Buffalo, New York, where her father became the pastor of a Baptist church. Aretha's mother began working as a nurse's aide. Reverend Franklin's reputation as a powerful preacher continued to grow, and soon he was receiving job offers from many other cities.

When Aretha was two years old, Reverend Franklin accepted a position as the pastor of the New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, Michigan. Though he didn't know it yet, Reverend Franklin's career with New Bethel would become enormously successful. His success as a minister would bring thousands of new members to his church and he would be influential in the growing civil rights movement. As Reverend Franklin's career grew, however, his marriage was falling apart.

When Aretha was six years old, her parents separated. Barbara Franklin moved back to Buffalo with Aretha's brother, Vaughn. The other four children remained in Detroit with Reverend Franklin. In later years it was reported that Barbara Franklin abandoned her family, but Aretha denied this in her autobiography. “It is an absolute lie that our mother abandoned us,” Aretha wrote. “She never lost sight of her children or her parenting responsibilities—and her visits continued regularly.” Each year, Aretha and the other children would spend the summers with their mother in Buffalo.

Did You Know?

Aretha Franklin's got a lot of soul! She is known as the Queen of Soul. Bessie Smith was Queen of the Blues, Mahalia Jackson was the Queen of Gospel, and Dinah Washington was just the Queen!

Additional topics

Musician BiographiesAretha FranklinChild of the Gospel - The Daughter Of A Preacher Man, A Good Life In Detroit, Tragedy Strikes, A Brief History Of Gospel Music