"Someone spread the story years ago, when he first appeared around college from wherever he came from, that he was a graduate of the divinity school"

Although during the late 19th and early 20th century, the majority of universities kept their doors closed to black applicants, gaining admission to Harvard was entirely possible. This had been the case since 1865, when the end of the Civil War ushered in the reversal of a 229-year-old policy. This decision represented a landmark in progress, though it would be some time before discrimination completely ebbed away. From the outset, the university attracted African Americans whose achievements would be felt until the present, such as W. E. B. Du Bois who in 1895 became the first black student to receive a Ph.D.