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President Barack Obama may be Harvard’s most famous graduate and the first to lead its Law Review. But more than 140 years ago, another black man by the name of Richard T. Greener became the first black person to earn a diploma from the esteemed Ivy League school, elev8 reports.


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Documents proving this fact were found in a most unlikely place: an abandoned house. Elev8 has more:

Historians thought the documents were lost in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake because Greener had passed through at the time. Rufus McDonald got a call one day to see about an old abandoned house. The front door of the abandoned home near 75th and Sangamon was unlocked and swinging in the wind.

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Drug addicts, squatters and stray animals carried away whatever they wanted. Everything that wasn’t termite-infested seemed to have been stolen. Even the copper pipes were gone. But the scavengers missed something incredible. Hidden in the attic that McDonald was contracted to clear before the home’s 2009 demolition was a trunk. Inside were the papers of Richard T. Greener, the first African American to graduate from Harvard.

“I didn’t know who he was,” said McDonald, 51. “But as soon as I found out, I knew this was a story that had to be told.”

Go to Elev8 for more on this story.

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