The setting for the public viewing could not be more fitting, according to Paula Marie Seniors, an associate professor of Africana studies at Virginia Tech.
"I think it's incredibly significant — she is being honoured almost like a queen at one of the most important black museums in the United States," said Seniors, who visited the museum several years ago when she was in Detroit doing research.
The museum, which had been the largest black museum in the U.S. until the National Museum of African American History and Culture opened in Washington, D.C., in 2016, also hosted a similar public viewing for civil rights icon Parks after her 2005 death. Franklin sang at Parks's funeral, which was held at the same Detroit church slated for Franklin's on Friday. The singer will also be entombed in the same cemetery as Parks.
The women came to their activism from different places and used different techniques, but "in the long run, they were both fighting for the same cause, which is freedom," Seniors said.
Seniors said if she could attend the viewing, she would bring her eight-year-old daughter, Shakeila, who has sung along with Franklin's videos.
"I want my daughter to know anything and everything about African-American culture and history," said Seniors, whose father, Clarence Henry Seniors, was roommates at Morehouse College with Franklin's brother, Cecil.
"I would want my daughter to know of the people like Aretha Franklin — to be able to listen to that voice ... and hear that there is something special about it."