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Franklinton was founded in 1819, originally under the name of Franklin, but in 1826 the name was changed to Franklinton since there was already another town named Franklin, Louisiana. Franklinton became the Parish seat of Washington Parishon February 10, 1821.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 10.9 km² (4.2 mi²). 10.7 km² (4.1 mi²) of it is land and 0.1 km² (0.04 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 0.95% water.
As of the census of 2000, there are 3,657 people, 1,366 households, and 878 families residing in the town. The population density is 341.1/km² (882.8/mi²). There are 1,536 housing units at an average density of 143.2/km² (370.8/mi²). The racial makeup of the town is 47.01% White, 51.87% African American, 0.11% Native American, 0.19% Asian, 0.00% Pacific Islander, 0.00% from other races, and 0.82% from two or more races. 0.49% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There are 1,366 households out of which 30.2% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 38.9% are married couples living together, 21.2% have a female householder with no husband present, and 35.7% are non-families. 33.2% of all households are made up of individuals and 15.7% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.45 and the average family size is 3.13.
In the town the population is spread out with 26.9% under the age of 18, 8.6% from 18 to 24, 23.4% from 25 to 44, 22.1% from 45 to 64, and 19.1% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 38 years. For every 100 females there are 83.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 77.6 males.
The median income for a household in the town is $20,955, and the median income for a family is $27,957. Males have a median income of $25,268 versus $16,337 for females. The per capita income for the town is $11,273. 31.3% of the population and 24.0% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total people living in poverty, 41.3% are under the age of 18 and 28.7% are 65 or older.