Diploma Of Harvard’s First African-American Up For Auction

8-7-2014 12-37-15 PM

The original Harvard College diploma received by the school’s first African-American graduate will be up for auction by the Leslie Hindman Auctioneers on Wednesday. The 144-year-old diploma belonging to Richard T. Greener is now on display, where it will be sold to the tune of $15,000.

The document dated to July 1870 was found by Rufus McDonald, along with a pile of personal papers and artwork that belonged to Greener. McDonald, a 52-year-old contractor, stumbled upon the steamer trunk of belongings while cleaning out an old house scheduled for demolition in Chicago.

After Harvard University officials called the treasure priceless artifacts, McDonald sold it for around $52,000 to the University of South Carolina, where Greener taught. When Harvard offered a law deal for Greener’s collection and diploma, McDonald threatened to torch the document if the school didn’t meet his standards.

“I’ll roast and burn them,” he said in October of last year. “It might sound crazy, but people who know me know I’d really do it – I’m sick and tired of Harvard’s BS.”

Greener first enrolled at Harvard in 1865, and graduated with honors before serving as dean of Howard University’s law school. The Ivy League graduate was then tapped by President William McKinley to serve a seven-year position as the United States diplomat in Russia. He died of old age in Chicago in 1922.

(Photo Credit: Leslie Hindman Auctioneers)