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Aug 05, 2014 05:34 AM EDT

Galesburg High School to Award Diploma to African-American after 55 Years

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Alva Earley, an African-American man, will receive his Galesburg High School diploma 55 years after it was wronglly denied to him. Earley, from Galesburg, will receive his high school diploma Friday at a reunion for the class of 1959.

The school district in Western Illinois did not confer the diploma to Earley after he attended a picnic at the North Lake Storey Park - which was a prohibited area for the black people at that time. Earley said that this incident cost him admissions to the University of Chicago and the Northwestern University.

"Both letters were short, terse, and quickly to the point," Earley wrote. "They said something like, 'It is our regret to inform you that it is NOT our policy to accept a student who is NOT recommended by his high school.'"

"I was out! Twelve years of hard work, and with one sentence I was out," Earley said, Journal Star reports.

After facing rejections at several colleges, Earley received an acceptance letter from the Knox College in Galesburg. But, he could complete only two years of school due to financial and housing problems. Earley eventually resumed education and graduated with a bachelor of science degree from the University of Illinois. He then received a doctor of jurisprudence degree from the Chicago Kent Illinois Institute of Technology and a doctor of divinity degree from the Northwestern University.

Although he holds two doctorate degrees, Earley was denied a job with the federal government for not possessing a high school diploma.

Galesburg Superintendent Bart Arthur hopes that awarding the diploma at this stage will do some justice.

"This school board is doing the right thing when they don't have to, and I am very grateful for that," Earley said, The Southern reports.

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