A Photograph Is Discovered of the First Black Graduate of Yale College

Edward A. Bouchet (1852-1918) graduated from Yale College in 1874. He went on to be the first African American to earn a doctorate from an American university when he received a Ph.D. in physics at Yale University in 1876.

For many years, it was believed that Dr. Bouchet was the first Black graduate of Yale College. But nine years ago, new research discovered that Richard Henry Greene of the Class of 1857 was, in all likelihood, the first Black graduate.

In 2014, Rick Stattler of Swann Auction Galleries searched a cache of documents that the firm had acquired on consignment, mostly letters to and from Greene and other members of his family, Stattler found that census records and city directories in Greene’s hometown of New Haven identified him as Black, or sometimes “mulatto.”

After graduating from Yale, Greene earned a medical doctorate at Dartmouth College and served as an assistant surgeon in the U.S. Navy during the Civil War. After the war, he established a medical practice in upstate New York.

Dr. Greene’s great-great-granddaughter Lisa Senecal Moseley, who when contacted by Yale did not know that Dr. Greene had some African heritage, has supplied the only known images of Dr. Greene. The 1870 U.S. census identified Dr. Greene as White and his descendants have identified as White.

Dr. Greene died on March 23, 1877, at the age of 43.

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