The First: An American Story

June 2, 2008 | Newsmakers

Colin Powell, a sturdy son of City College and perhaps the most famous living graduate of The City University of New York, achieved national distinction for his service as U.S. Army four-star general, as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and as Secretary of State — the first African-American in the history of the Republic to hold these posts. More than a century before Powell’s historic accomplishments, an unsung trailblazer and the University’s first African-American graduate sought an Army career and appointment to the elite — and all white — U.S. Army Signal Corps. CUNY Matters writer Ron Howell recently uncovered new details about William Hallet Greene, a coachman’s son, and his story of triumph and struggle in a hostile post-Civil War era.
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