Education

USC’s first African-American professor now honored by statue on campus

Statue of Richard T. Greener unveiled at USC

Richard T. Greener was the first African-American professor to teach at The University of South Carolina. A 9-foot-tall bronze statue was unveiled near Thomas Cooper Library on campus
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Richard T. Greener was the first African-American professor to teach at The University of South Carolina. A 9-foot-tall bronze statue was unveiled near Thomas Cooper Library on campus

The University of South Carolina unveiled a statue Wednesday of its first African-American professor.

A 9-foot-tall statue of Richard T. Greener stands next to the Thomas Cooper Library, where Greener worked, teaching philosophy, Latin, Greek and law on the Columbia campus.

The first African-American to graduate from Harvard University, Greener arrived at USC in 1873. That was during the post-Civil War Reconstruction period, when black South Carolinians were allowed to go to college for the first time.

Greener earned a degree from USC’s law school and was active in the state Republican Party until 1877, when Gov. Wade Hampton shut down the integrated college.

Greener went on to become the dean of Howard University’s law school and held a diplomatic post in Russia.

“Every time he was asked, he called South Carolina home,” said U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-Columbia. “That was because of the experiences he had here and seeing how much the state had overcome.”

USC president Harris Pastides said Greener was “a trailblazer, risk-taker, a man of education and self-confidence, qualities we still look for in new professors and new students.”

The $125,000 statue was paid for with private donations.

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