Historic documents may be burned if Harvard does not cough up cash
If Rufus McDonald were white, you'd already know his name, and he'd be on the path to pushing George Zimmerman aside as the most hated man in America. But because he is black, you probably have never heard of him, unless you live in Chicago. You see, Mr. McDonald was cleaning out an attic and discovered some papers. As Kim Janssen of the Chicago Sun-Times reported Tuesday:
Hidden in a dusty trunk in an abandoned and looted Englewood home, the papers of Harvard's first black graduate, Richard T. Greener, had long been thought lost to history. (snip)
Several museums and Harvard University itself expressed a keen interest in the historically significant 140-year-old Greener documents. An excited Gates, who leads Harvard's W.E.B. DuBois Institute for African-American Research, even said the discovery gave him "gooseflesh."
But now McDonald says the irreplaceable collection could go up in flames - literally.
McDonald - who recently sold just two of the documents for $52,000 to the University of South Carolina, where Greener also studied and taught - is threatening to torch the rest unless Harvard offers him more cash.
McDonald apparently is so consumed by greed and envy that he would rob posterity of these documents. All he did was stumble upon them. The missing chorus of condemnation from "civil rights leaders" speaks volumes. I seriously doubt he will carry out his threat, but in the wake of tea partiers being called extortionsists, terrorists, and suicide bombers, this attempted blackmail being greeted with a shrug rankles.
Update: The Chicago Tribune reports today:
Speaking Wednesday at his Marquette Park neighborhood home, McDonald backed down from those comments, which he said he made out of anger and frustration. He nonetheless indicated he's ready to give up on Harvard and hopes to find a collector who values Greener's contribution to history and is willing to pay a sum in line with what he received for two documents he's already sold.
Hat tip: Peter von Buol