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While celebrating our history is important, it is essential to explore the real and sometimes painful process through which individuals lived that history. greener portraitThe White Problem is a new play commissioned for the University Bicentennial that explores the fascinating, painful, tragic, ironic life of Richard Theodore Greener. Born in 1844, Greener grew up in Boston and became the first African American to graduate from Harvard and the first African American faculty member of South Carolina College during the short reconstruction period in the 1870's when the institution was one of the first to be fully integrated. During the reconstruction period, Greener was deeply involved in politics in South Carolina. When the reconstruction College was closed and then reopened as a segregated college, Greener left the state, becoming by turns a lawyer, politician, civil servant and the first African American to represent the US abroad as a Consul in Vladivostok.

While the outline of his life seems to suggest an early African American success story, the full story is painful, ironic and ultimately tragic. Educated as an "experiment" by a gorup of wealthy Bostonians, Greener spent most of his life caught between factions in America's seemingly endless racial conflict. Exploited and manipulated by many of his white supporters, he found himself the object of suspicion within the African American community which had reached a great divide as the philosophies of Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Dubois competed to provide a vision of the future of black America.

The White Problem made its world premiere at Longstreet Theatre April 5 - 8 as part of the Bicentennial celebration. The play was selected for the 2001 Piccolo Spoleto Festival in Charleston, where it was performed from May 26 - June 10. After strong reviews at each of these venues, The White Problem will travel to other locations in South Carolina. It will be performed at South Carolina State University in November on a date to be announced and will travel to USC Spartanburg for performance on February 28, 2002.

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The Board of Trustees
University of South Carolina

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