Black History 365 – The first African-American graduate of Harvard College and dean of the Howard University School of Law

Richard Theodore Greener

Richard Theodore Greener

In 2016 for my Black History 365 series, I explore the obvious and not so obvious parts of American history that those called Black have taken part in. The things that we (Black people) have done other than be stolen from our homeland and made forced labor in a land foreign to us. I’m going to start this series by looking up the first time someone African-American did something and broke the color barrier in that activity or field. I’ll be starting with Wikipedia and working my way out:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_African-American_firsts

I will be learning a lot of this as I go since I am a product of the standardized Euro/Anglo/Caucasian leaning public school system. I hope you enjoy learning with me. I’ll be going down the list chronologically as it appears in the Wikipedia article.

If you have any other sources or additional information for this topic, please share in the comments. I also welcome any and all comments and discussion. Thanks for reading!

From Wikipedia:

Richard Theodore Greener (30 January 1844 – 2 May 1922) was the first African-American graduate of Harvard College and dean of the Howard University School of Law.

Richard Greener was born in Philadelphia in 1844 and moved with his mother to Boston when he was approximately nine years old. He quit school in his mid-teens to earn money for his family, but one of his employers, Franklin B. Sanborn, helped him to enroll in preparatory school at Oberlin College. He studied at Phillips Academy and graduated in 1865. After three years at Oberlin, Greener transferred to Harvard College and earned a bachelor’s degree in 1870. His admission to Harvard was “an experiment” by the administration and paved the way for many more black graduates of Harvard.

An article appeared in the Rochester Daily Democrat on August 16, 1869: “Richard Theodore Greener, a young colored man and a member of the senior class of Harvard College, is giving public readings in Philadelphia. Mr. Greener’s history is that of a persevering young man who has succeeded in living down the prejudices against his race and color, and attaining by industry, ability, and good character, a position of which he may well feel proud. He was awarded last year, at Harvard College, the prize for reading, and this year he has drilled two young white men who have likewise obtained prizes in the same branch. His course at Harvard has throughout been honorable. He is the first colored youth who has ever passed through that college.”

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