Education During Slavery

Who was the first African American to graduate from Harvard University?

Richard Theodore Greener (1844–1922), educator, lawyer, consular officer, and reformer, was the first black to graduate from Harvard University, in 1870. In October 1873 he became professor of metaphysics at the University of South Carolina. Greener assisted in the departments of Latin, Greek, mathematics, and constitutional history while also attending to his primary teaching duties. He was acting librarian, arranging the university’s book collection of twenty-seven thousand volumes, and beginning preparations for a card catalog. During this same time, Greener studied law. In 1876 he graduated from the university’s law school. He was admitted to the Supreme Court of South Carolina in 1877, and the next year practiced at the District of Columbia bar. He remained at South Carolina until March 1877, when the Wade Hampton legislature abruptly closed the door of the university to black students. He headed the law school at Howard University and developed a considerable reputation as a speaker and writer. Greener became active in the foreign service, serving in Bombay and Vladivostok. He retired in 1905.

Attorney and professor Richard Theodore Greener was the first black man to graduate from Harvard University, earning a B.A. He also earned a law degree from the University of South Carolina. In his later career he was a U.S. commercial agent in Russia and India.


This is a web preview of the "The Handy African American History Answer Book" app. Many features only work on your mobile device. If you like what you see, we hope you will consider buying. Get the App