Diploma of Harvard College's First Black Graduate to Be Auctioned

The present-day owner of the historic document had threatened to burn it in 2013.

Posted: 08/05/2014 03:33 PM EDT

The original Harvard College diploma received by the school’s first African-American graduate, Richard Greener, will be up for auction on Wednesday.

The Chicago-based Leslie Hindman Auctioneers will hold the sale at noon at their house, where the 144-year-old item is now on display.

After finding the diploma while cleaning out a home in Chicago, Rufus McDonald, the current owner of Greener’s diploma, made headlines in 2013 when he threatened to burn the document if he did not receive a reasonable offer for it from Harvard.

In addition to the diploma, McDonald also found a number of Greener’s paintings and writings.

There is no word yet on whether the diploma will find a home at Harvard.

“I very much hope that Harvard acquires these documents at a fairly appraised value,” Henry Gates Jr., of Harvard’s W.E.B. DuBois Institute for African-American Research, told Boston Magazine in 2013. "Mr. McDonald’s discovery was extraordinary.”

Greener graduated from the ivy league college in 1870 with honors. His long career in academia, law and social justice included a two-year term as dean of the Howard Law School and a seven-year position as the United States Commercial Agent in Vladivostok, Russia. He died of old age in Chicago in 1922.

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(Photo: ABC News7)

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