First Black Harvard Graduate's Diploma Up For Auction in Chicago

Richard T. Greener, former dean of Howard University's law school and Russian diplomat, graduated from Harvard in June 1870

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Mary Kohnke / Leslie Hindman Auctioneers
    The diploma belonging to Richard T. Greener, Harvard's first African-American graduate and former dean of Howard University's law school, will be auctioned off to the public tomorrow.

    The bachelor's degree of the first African-American Harvard graduate will be auctioned off Wednesday in Chicago.

    Richard T. Greener, former dean of Howard University's law school and Russian diplomat, graduated from Harvard in June 1870. His diploma will be auctioned off at 1338 W. Lake St.

    Greener's papers, which were thought to have been lost during the San Francisco earthquake in 1906, were found by Rufus McDonald, a contractor who recovered them while clearing out an Englewood home slated for demolition, the Sun-Times reported.

    After threatening to burn the documents if Harvard did not make a reasonable offer, McDonald has partnered with Leslie Hindman Auctioneers to auction the diploma to the public.

    Greener enrolled in Harvard in 1865, where he won two Bowdoin prizes as an undergraduate. He taught philosophy at the University of South Carolina, where he obtained his law degree in 1876. The University of South Carolina purchased a portion of Greener's papers for $52,000.

    After he was admitted to the South Carolina bar in 1878, he became the dean of the School of Law at Howard University and retired from his service as a Russian diplomat in 1905.

    Historians considered him to be a pioneer of racial and social equality in the racially segregated South. He lived in Chicago with his cousins until he died in 1922.

    “Our firm is honored to be facilitating the sale of this incredibly important document,” said Mary Kohnke, Director of Fine Books and Manuscripts at Leslie Hindman Auctioneers."Greener's Harvard diploma is a symbol of the power of the individual spirit to overcome incredible prejudice and break down institutional, and social, barriers."