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Aretha Franklin, a 'diva to the end,' goes out in style at public viewings

Hundreds poured in to pay their respects to Aretha Franklin during public viewings of her body at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit.

Public viewings of Aretha Franklin’s body began Tuesday at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, where hundreds poured in to pay their respects to the Queen of Soul.

Franklin was in a red dress, her feet clad in red stilettos and crossed daintily at the ankles, as she rested in repose. Gardens worth of pink and lavender roses blossomed around her gold-plated casket. Pallbearers in black suits and white gloves brought the casket into the museum.

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Hundreds of people lined up on the street outside the museum starting in the wee hours and continuing through the day, as seen on a livestream. Inside the museum’s atrium, Franklin was seen in her casket in front of white draperies, surrounded by flowers.

Some cried, others prayed, some celebrated Franklin’s “homegoing” and others took selfies outside. Aretha-themed T-shirts, posters and other memorabilia were sprinkled throughout the crowd.

The red dress symbolized Franklin's honorary membership in the Delta Sigma Theta sorority, her niece Sabrina Garrett Owens told the Associated Press on Tuesday. Owens said she and others who helped plan the viewing wanted to give her aunt a sendoff that “would match her legacy.” The dress looked like “something she would have selected for herself” and worn onstage, Owens said.

“What we wanted to do is be reflective of the Queen,” museum board member Kelly Major Green told the AP. “It’s beautiful. She’s beautiful.”

The shoes, in particular, show “the Queen of Soul is diva to the end,” Green said. Franklin’s viewing is running from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. in Detroit on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The body of Aretha Franklin lies in repose at Detroit's Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History on Tuesday.
The body of Aretha Franklin lies in repose at Detroit's Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History on Tuesday. (Pool / Getty Images)

The museum also hosted viewings of civil-rights icon Rosa Parks after her death in 2005. Franklin died Aug. 16 of pancreatic cancer at age 76.

A homegoing service will be held at 10 a.m. Friday at the city’s Greater Grace Temple. Though it is a private service, it will be livestreamed by the church and will include performances by Stevie Wonder, Faith Hill, Jennifer Hudson, Chaka Khan and more.

A eulogy will be delivered by the Rev. Jasper Williams Jr. of Salem Baptist Church in Atlanta. Former President Bill Clinton will speak, as will music mogul Clive Davis and the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

Nationally, Fox News and CNN plan to air parts of the funeral live, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Franklin will be buried with her father, the Rev. C.L. Franklin; her brother Cecil Franklin; her sisters Carolyn Franklin and Erma Franklin; and her nephew, Thomas Garrett, at Woodlawn Cemetery in Detroit.

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