What happened to the Green Tree?

What’s to become of the legacy of Dr. Richard R. Green, a Minnesota educational pioneer?

If you’ve ever driven past Richard Green School in South Minneapolis and wondered where the name came from, retired teacher Rosa Bogar wants you to know Dr. Green was a great educator who loved children and deserves better recognition here in the city where he grew up and launched his career.

Moving to Minneapolis at the age of two, along with his mother and three siblings, Dr. Richard R. Green was born in Menifee, Arkansas, May 27, 1936. When arriving in Minneapolis, he and his family lived in the Glenwood-Lyndale housing projects. After spending some time in a reform school, he decided to further his education, becoming a teacher, then principal, and then the first Black superintendent of the Minneapolis Public Schools system.

 Ms. Rosa Bogar with student Ana Alarcon Gochez, the 23rd recipient of the Green Tree Award, in front of the Green Tree replacement. Photos courtesy of Rosa Bogar
Ms. Rosa Bogar with student Ana Alarcon Gochez, the 23rd recipient of the Green Tree Award, in front of the Green Tree replacement.

He served in this capacity from 1980 to 1988, and on March 3, 1988 he was selected to become the first Black chancellor of the New York City Public Schools. Inheriting a team of educators to work with him, he began to address the academics and safety many New York school children lacked.

All this information comes from talking with Ms. Rosa Bogar, a retired educator in the Minneapolis Public Schools system and a historian. After spending 30 years in the Minneapolis schools, Bogar spent her final days at Richard R. Green Central Park School, K-8, formerly known as Minneapolis Central High School.

In Dr. Green’s days as Minneapolis superintendent, he impacted students of all cultures and ethnicities while repeating a special quote that won many over: “If you believe it, you can achieve it. If it is to be, it is up to me.” This saying promoted personal responsibility.

Photos courtesy of Rosa Bogar

Bogar joined the Green team’s mission to serve and support the needs of our urban school children, seeking to help the helpless and, most of all, wanting and encouraging every child to live his or her dreams.

After only 14 months in New York as the public schools chancellor, on May 10, 1989, Dr. Richard R. Green had an asthma attack and passed at the age of 52. He was brought back to Minneapolis and laid to rest here.

On November 15, 1993, Ms. Bogar was part of a dedication ceremony honoring Dr. Green that was held at the newly named Richard R. Green Central Park School, 3416 4th Avenue South, and she presented ‘Ears Have Not Heard/Nor Eyes Have Seen,’ a song she wrote honoring Dr. Green.

Upon retiring in 2003, Ms. Bogar continued her efforts to preserve the Dr. Richard Green legacy. There has been one school in Minneapolis named in honor of Dr. Green, while New York had five schools and a park named in his honor for being the first Black public schools chancellor in New York’s history.

On May 27, 1994, Bogar announced the Green Tree Award, an annual award at Dr. Richard R. Green Central Park School honoring scholastic achievement by students annually. After honoring 23 award winners, the Green Tree, designed by artist Ester Brown, which stood in the school hallway for 20 years, was recently removed. Referred to as the Tree of Knowledge, the Green Tree was supported by many community residents according to Bogar.

On May 27, 2011, then-Mayor R.T. Rybak proclaimed May 27 Richard R. Green Day in Minneapolis, honoring Dr. Green’s birthday and his accomplishments. Many attended, including Dr. Green’s wife, Gwen. Bogar designed a banner signed by hundreds commemorating Dr. Green. Many students signed the banner, and Bogar explained how that supported Dr. Green’s ideology of creating space for our children in our circles of legacy.

Asked what we need to do as a community to keep the Green legacy alive, Bogar responded, “I feel strongly that we, as adults, don’t do enough. We often feel that we have to wait 30, 40, 50 years to celebrate who we are historically, not realizing that history is yesterday!

“We must honor Dr. Green by visiting and touring the school more. His legacy should be implemented more into the school. We must bring his legacy to life right here in the Twin Cities. Dr. Green must be represented outside of the school as well as inside, showing that it is named in honor of an African American educator. The Richard Green Tree of Knowledge, can be a great bridging mechanism of cultures.

“The Minnesota History Center should put Dr. Richard Green’s work on permanent display, so we all remember Richard Green who gave his all to all children.”

Where is the Gree Tree now? For more information, on the Green Tree of Knowledge, contact Rosa Bogar at rosabogar@yahoo.com.

Raymond Jackson welcomes reader responses to rayjack49@yahoo.com.

2 Comments on “What happened to the Green Tree?”

  1. I am excited of this article on the “Green Tree” I established this concept of the “Green Tree”” and the “Green Tree Award” to help keep Dr. Green’s legacy alive! I hope many others will do likewise. Thanks, to Mr Raymond Jackson for writing my story and the MSR for printing it. I am honored that you did. Rosa Bogar

  2. I am still in pursuit of seeing a post stamp to honor the legacy of the late Dr. Richard R. Green. As we know Dr. Green was the first African-American Superintendent of Mpls. Public Schools. He was the first African-American Chancellor of NYC Public School System, the largest in the nation. Dr. Richard R. Green was a champion in education and he was passionate to see that all children had the same opportunity to learn. Write the postal service if you desire to see a stamp to honor Dr. Green ,This is long over due. Thanks. Rosa Bogar [retired from Mpls. Public Schools.]

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