Preface: Black history is important to me because I feel like it provides that foundation of pride that is missing from so many of our youth’s hearts. It’s hard to have pride when the only history you ever get to hear about yourself depicts you as slaves and pieces of property. That’s why we have to supplement for the public education system that is severely lacking in providing a full look at the wondrous history black people have built in this country despite the great many adversities they had to face. I’m only contributing to this in a small way this month, but I hope to give some brief insight into some figures from Black History. So every day I will be posting a little profile of a figure I’ve plucked from Black History. Maybe I’ll inspire someone to dig deeper or to pick up this torch and spread the education. A million trickles can fill a lake…
Name: Richard Theodore Greener
Basics: Mr. Greener was the first black graduate of Harvard, doing so in 1870. A Philly native, he worked for Frederick Douglass and ended up opening a private law practice where he fought against injustice and discrimination (imagine how incredibly difficult that must have been in his time). He forged a deep friendship with Booker T. Washington, a friendship that ended up putting him in the crosshairs of the battle between Washington and DuBois. Greener sided with his friend and worked as a spy of sorts for him against DuBois. Inevitably, that didn’t pay off as neither side trusted him and he no longer found himself with any power in the black struggle. Despite that, he was a trailblazer for African-American men in a time when those trails were infinitely hard to blaze.
Why I Chose Him: For me, I feel this was an important way to start my Black History month tribute because I feel like education has suffered a terrible devaluation in the black community. There are plenty of reasons that people like to point their finger at, but I’m not going to get into that here. The point is that education is the gateway to a better life. And I’m not merely talking about public education and college education. I’m talking about the education that begins at home. Parents have to encourage their children to be learners. To let them know that being educated is one of the most powerful things in the world because what you learn can never be taken from you.