Uncompromising Activist: Richard Greener, First Black Professor at USC

May 28, 2018

Richard T. Greener, circa 1900; by J. H. Cunningham. In The Colored American, February 24, 1900.
Credit The Colored American, February 24, 1900 / Library of Congress/Chronicling America

Richard Theodore Greener (1844–1922) was a renowned black activist and scholar. The first black graduate of Harvard College, he became the first black faculty member at the University of South Carolina, during Reconstruction. He was even the first black US diplomat to a predominately-white country, serving in Vladivostok, Russia. A notable speaker and writer for racial equality, he also served as a dean of the Howard University School of Law and as the administrative head of the Ulysses S. Grant Monument Association. Yet he died in obscurity, his name barely remembered.

Richard Greener’s story demonstrates the human realities of racial politics throughout the fight for abolition, the struggle for equal rights, and the backslide into legal segregation. With Uncompromising Activist: Richard Greener, First Black Graduate of Harvard College (2017, Johns Hopkins University Press)

Katherine Reynolds Chaddock, distinguished professor emerita of education at the University of South Carolina, has written a long overdue narrative biography about a man, fascinating in his own right, who also exemplified America’s discomfiting perspectives on race and skin color.

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