Sale 322 Lot 180

Partially printed document, one page, on vellum, being the original Bachelor of Arts diploma for Richard Theodore Greener from Harvard College, June 28, 1870.

Richard Greener (1844-1922) was the first African-American graduate of Harvard College. After studying at Oberlin and Andover, Greener enrolled in Harvard in 1865, where he won two Bowdoin Prizes as an undergraduate. Following his graduation with honors, Greener taught philosophy at the University of South Carolina, from which he was able to obtain his law degree in 1876. He was admitted to the South Carolina bar in 1878 and later became the dean of the department of law at Howard University. Greener was appointed secretary of the Grant Memorial Association in New York in 1885 and, later, U.S. commercial agent at Vladivostok in Siberia by President McKinley in 1898. He retired from office and foreign service in 1905 and lived with cousins in Chicago until his death in 1922. Greener's daughter, called Belle da Costa Greene, was an expert in medieval manuscripts who worked directly with J.P. Morgan at the Morgan Library in New York and is said to have been the mistress of the art historian and critic, Bernard Berenson.

Richard Greener's personal papers, previously thought to have been lost during the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, were recovered in recent years by the present owner from a home in Chicago. A portion of the documents were sold to the University of South Carolina.

The first African-American graduate of Harvard College, the first African-American faculty member at University of South Carolina, and an intellectual luminary in Reconstruction-period America, Greener was a pioneer of social and racial equality in the racially divided South. His Harvard diploma, a document of incalculable historical significance, has never before been offered at public auction.
14 5/8 x 19 5/8 inches
Estimate $ 10,000-15,000

Property from the Collection of Rufus McDonald, Chicago, Illinois

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