Lot 12: 1st Black Harvard graduate as Republican ‘good soldier’, 1884 letter
10th August 2017
Heading: African-American, 1884. Title: 1st Black Harvard graduate, letter as Republican ‘good soldier’. Place Published: Indianapolis. Date Published: 1884. Description: Greener, R.[ichard] T. Autograph Letter Signed on hotel stationery. Indianapolis, Oct. 6, 1884. 2pp. To Mr. Norton [Republican Committee, NY]. Written by the first African-American graduate of Harvard while furiously campaigning among Black voters in Ohio for Republican presidential candidate James G. Blaine. : "I arrived here yesterday morning from Columbus, and was in time to take part in the ratification meeting last eveg...I have felt confident for a week of Ohio, but the Ohio vote is so mercurial that one never knows just how to bet upon it. Blaine did immense service and Dudley was a whole team, a quiet, effective, worker. Rathbone in Cincinnati did great service. I find I am set for this week solid and also for next week, every night. I hope to hold out but with the work I have already done I do not count too surely on myself. I have only missed two appointments in four weeks...I made up for that by remaining here and speaking at the "Praise Meeting'...Don't you think I could do more good in New York state, say in Brooklyn and vicinity...than in Penna. where the electoral vote is as sure as the solid South's for Cleveland?. Of course, I am perfectly willing, like a good soldier, to stay where I am put. My only choice is to be put where I can do the most good. I have been on the go so continuously, traveling by day and speaking at night in every instance and most of the time out of doors...I feel more and more confident of success, but victory is not assured even by Ohio. Please send me. a check for $300 by the 20th at which time I return to speak at the Blaine reception here." Harvard alumnus, first Black faculty member at the University of South Carolina, then Dean of Howard University Law School, Richard Greener is remembered today because his daughter, Belle da Costa Greene, a beauty who "passed" as white, had an affair with art expert Bernard Berenson and became personal librarian to deep-pockets art and manuscript collector J.P.Morgan. More recently, Greener's name made headlines when his long-lost Harvard diploma sold at auction in Chicago for $12,500. In his own day, Greener was considered a Black visionary on a par with Frederick Douglass and was clearly well-regarded by Republican Party managers, whom he served in the 1884 presidential election campaign, as orator to Black audiences and sometimes spy on Democratic opponents. He fortunately escaped the post-election congressional scrutiny that focused on the political colleagues he names here, US Commissioner of Pensions Dudley and his Chief of "Special Examiners" Rathbone, both of whom used powerful federal resources to aid the GOP cause in Ohio, where Blaine carried the state by a 4% margin (but lost the election to Grover Cleveland).. Condition: Very good.
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