Illinois Man Threatens To Burn Historic Papers Of Harvard’s First Black Graduate Unless He Is Given More Money

220px-Richard_T_GreenerContractor Rufus McDonald, 52, is upset. He found historic papers of Harvard’s first black graduate, Richard T. Greener, in the attic of an abandoned home. He immediately offered to sell the papers to Harvard but was disappointed by the offer made by the school. Faced with what he describes as an insulting offer for such invaluable papers, McDonald announced that he would burn them unless people gave him more money.

What is curious is the McDonald, an African American, has been heralding the find and praising this pioneer in African-American history while promising to burn the collection unless people offer him more cash.

Greener1The discovery was described by Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., who leads Harvard’s W.E.B. DuBois Institute for African-American Research, as giving him “gooseflesh.” However, McDonald described the $7,500 offer from Harvard as “insulting” for documents that include Greener’s 1870 Harvard diploma, which he says should be worth $65,000 alone. After all, he sold two of the documents for $52,000 to the University of South Carolina, where Greener also studied and taught.

Now, McDonald is literally holding a match to the collection and promising “I’ll roast and burn them.” He added “It might sound crazy, but people who know me know I’d really do it — I’m sick and tired of Harvard’s BS.” Hmmm, yes it “might sound crazy” to threaten to burn priceless historic documents and it hardly improves things that people who know you would attest that you are capable of such an atrocity.

Greener is the former dean of Howard University School of Law. A brilliant lawyer and diplomat, Greener was a friend of Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington and overcame tremendous obstacles in this life. He was the son of a slave, left school at 14 and worked as a porter in a Boston hotel. He would later be assisted by white businessmen in applying to Harvard and eventually become the friend of U.S. Sen. Charles Sumner and President Ulysses Grant. In 1898, Greener was appointed by President McKinley as U.S. commercial agent at Vladivostok in Siberia. Greener would later leave his family and assume a common law marriage with a Japanese wife with whom he had three children. In 1905, he retired from the Foreign Service lived with cousins in Chicago from 1909 until his death in 1922. Presumably, this trunk with his papers never left Chicago after his death and was not found until the house was being demolished in 2013.

Lawyer, scholar, diplomat. That was quite a legacy . . . until of course a critical record of that legacy fell into the hands of Rufus McDonald.

McDonald insisted that he wants his piece of the action and was willing to torch history rather than allow the documents to be preserved at less of a profit to him.

[Update: this morning, McDonald says that he is probably not going to burn the papers and explained that he was just upset. That is a curious defense since many of us get upset but there remains a bit of space between that mood and announcing an intention to burn historic documents].

Source: Sun Times

28 thoughts on “Illinois Man Threatens To Burn Historic Papers Of Harvard’s First Black Graduate Unless He Is Given More Money”

  1. Of course Harvard was lowballing. Its called the free market. But pinhead can take it to an auction house for better offers. His remark about destroying it was childish for a 52 yr. old. wahhh . wahhh.

  2. hahahahaha any accredited school is into lip service the whole point of accreditation is to keep the truth from being taught and learned . Especially at the devil worshipping universities such as harvard, yale and anything with ivy league in it. but then of course since slavery the savagery has managed to be turned onto the black race thanks to think tanks such as tavistock and the u.n. of course no one here will agree with that assessment but then agreeing will mean you know and understand your history is a lie told to you by those who have a damn good reason to lie. because the accreditation would mean you’d learn the truth and that they just cant have

  3. Working against your own as well as your opponents best interest is potentially the most effective, and dangerous, of negotiating tactics.

    The Blazing Saddles all purpose negotiation primer on this principle:

  4. Harvard thought they were dealing with a rube and lowballed the offer. If they were buying them from Christies instead of a contractor in the miswest, respect would have been paid. Shame.

  5. Mike Spindell:

    I would say he has a right to do whatever he wants. As far as Harvard goes, havent their students fuked this country up enough all ready?

    I wouldnt threaten to burn them and I would probably donate them to Howard University as Harvard, in my opinion, is more into lip service than actual concern for blacks.

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