Fans lined up on the sidewalk after sleeping overnight outside of Detroit’s Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History to get their final glimpse of Aretha Franklin.
The legendary Queen of Soul lay in a solid gold casket and wore a red cocktail dress and matching red stilettos. Franklin died from pancreatic cancer on August 16 at 76 years of age.
A vintage white LaSalle carrying Franklin’s body in a casket arrived in her hometown of Detroit, Michigan, on Tuesday morning as her two-day public viewing began. Many fans from Detroit and other parts of the U.S. had camped outside the museum for an opportunity to see Franklin while she is lying in state. The museum previously held a public viewing for civil rights icon Rosa Parks after her death in 2005.
Fifty-year-old Melissa Howard of Austin, Texas, told the Detroit Free Press that she had been a fan of Franklin’s music since she was a child and flew into Detroit the day before so she wouldn’t miss the public viewing.
Fifty-nine-year-old Charles Thomas said he was there to celebrate Franklin’s accomplishments and the work she did to advance the Civil Rights Movement, “She helped the movement — her and Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte. She went through the back door so people who look like me could go through the front door.”
Thousands are expected to visit the museum in the coming days. Franklin’s public viewing will be open from 9 am to 9 pm on Tuesday and Wednesday. On Thursday, between 12 pm and 4 pm, her body will be moved to her late father Rev. C.L. Franklin’s church, New Bethel Baptist. On Thursday night at 6 pm, the Chene Park amphitheater will host ‘A People’s Tribute to the Queen’, a free concert featuring tributes by Gladys Knight, Johnny Gill, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Angie Stone, Keith Washington, and others.
Franklin’s funeral will be held Friday at Detroit’s Greater Grace Temple. The service is open to family and friends only and will feature performances by Yolanda Adams, Stevie Wonder, Jennifer Hudson, Shirley Caesar, Faith Hill, Fantasia, Ron Isley, Chaka Khan, Jennifer Holliday, and Franklin’s son, Edward Franklin. The funeral will also include speeches by former President Bill Clinton, Bishop T. D. Jakes, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rev. Al Sharpton, Smokey Robinson, Cicely Tyson, former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Clive Davis and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. Rev. Jasper Williams Jr., pastor of Atlanta’s Salem Baptist Church, will deliver the eulogy.
After the funeral, Franklin will be buried at Woodlawn Cemetary in Detroit, where her father, Rev. C. L. Franklin; brother, Cecil Franklin; sisters, Carolyn Franklin and Erma Franklin; and nephew, Thomas Garrett, are also buried. Woodlawn is also the burial ground of Rosa Parks.
— Blair Halliday