Langston, John Mercer, 1829-1897

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John Mercer Langston (December 14, 1829 – November 15, 1897) was an American abolitionist, attorney, educator, activist, diplomat, and politician. An African American, he became the first dean of the law school at Howard University and helped create the department. He was the first president of what is now Virginia State University, a historically black college.

Born free in Virginia to a freedwoman of mixed race and a white planter father, in 1888 Langston was elected to the U.S. Congress as the first representative of color from Virginia. Joseph Hayne Rainey, the black Republican congressman from South Carolina, had been elected in 1870 during the Reconstruction era.

In the Jim Crow era of the later nineteenth century, Langston was one of five African Americans elected to Congress from the South before the former Confederate states passed constitutions and electoral rules from 1890 to 1908 that essentially disenfranchised blacks, excluding them from politics. After that, no African Americans would be elected from the South until 1973, after the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed to enforce their constitutional franchise rights.

Langston's early career was based in Ohio where, with his older brother Charles Henry Langston, he began his lifelong work for African-American freedom, education, equal rights and suffrage. In 1855 he was one of the first African Americans in the United States elected to public office when elected as a town clerk in Ohio. The brothers were the grandfather and great-uncle, respectively, of the renowned poet Langston Hughes.

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn George Freeman Bragg manuscripts, undated The New York Public Library. Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division.
creatorOf Langston, John Mercer, 1829-1897. Papers of John Mercer Langston [manuscript] 1853-98. University of Virginia. Library
creatorOf Langston, John Mercer, 1829-1897. Papers, [microform] 1854-1896. Oberlin College Library
referencedIn James Lowell Gibbs collection of African-American documents, 1865-1918 Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library.
referencedIn Norton Strange Townshend family papers, Townshend, Norton Strange family papers, 1807-1995 William L. Clements Library
referencedIn Hughes, Langston, 1902-1967. Letter to F. Coleman Rosenberger, 1948 October 21. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn General Records of the Department of State, 1763 - 2002. Letters Received, 1789 - 1906. M179 - Miscellaneous Letters of the Department of State, 1789-1906 National Archives at College Park
creatorOf Langston, John Mercer, 1829-1897. Papers. 1846-1930. Tulane University, Amistad Research Center
creatorOf Townshend family. Norton Strange Townshend family papers, 1807-1995. William L. Clements Library
referencedIn Sumner, Charles, 1811-1874. Correspondence, 1829-1874 Houghton Library
creatorOf Gibbs, James Lowell,. James Lowell Gibbs collection of African-American documents, 1865-1918. Cornell University Library
referencedIn Bragg, George F. (George Freeman), 1863-1940. George Freeman Bragg manuscripts, undated. New York Public Library System, NYPL
referencedIn Maxmilien, Eugene,. Eugene Maxmilien Haitian collection, 1847-1933. Campbell University, Wiggins Memorial Library
creatorOf John Mercer Langston Collection, 1870-1891 Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, Howard University
creatorOf Langston, John Mercer, 1829-1897. John Mercer Langston collection, 1870-1891. Moorland-Spingarn Resource Center
referencedIn Gamble, Thomas, 1858-1945. The Race Question scrapbook, circa 1880-1900. Georgia Historical Society
referencedIn Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, 1789 - 2015. Bills and Resolutions Originating in the Senate and Considered in the House, 1789 - 2003 National Archives at Washington, D.C
referencedIn Letters and documents. Hollins University, Wyndham Robertson Library
creatorOf Langston, John Mercer, 1829-1897. John Mercer Langston papers, 1846-1930. John Hope and Aurelia E. Franklin Library. Special Collections & Archives
referencedIn Eugene Maximilien Haitian collection, 1847-1933 The New York Public Library. Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division.
Relation Name
associatedWith Bracy, Paul H. person
associatedWith Bragg, George F. (George Freeman), 1863-1940. person
associatedWith Galbraith, J. R. person
associatedWith Gamble, Thomas, 1858-1945. person
associatedWith Gibbs, James Lowell, person
associatedWith Howard, O. O. (Oliver Otis), 1830-1909. person
employeeOf Howard University. corporateBody
relativeOf Hughes, Langston, 1902-1967. person
associatedWith James Lowell Gibbs. person
associatedWith John G. Whittier Historical Association (Memphis, Tenn.) corporateBody
spouseOf Langston, Caroline M. Wall, b. 1833. person
spouseOf Langston, Caroline M. Walls. person
associatedWith Maximilien, Eugene person
associatedWith Maxmilien, Eugene, person
founderOf National Equal Rights League. corporateBody
alumnusOrAlumnaOf Oberlin College corporateBody
associatedWith Ogden, John, 1824-1910. person
correspondedWith Sumner, Charles, 1811-1874 person
associatedWith Townshend family family
associatedWith Townshend family family
associatedWith United States. Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands. corporateBody
employeeOf United States Department of State corporateBody
employeeOf United States. Freedmen's Bureau. corporateBody
associatedWith United States. War Dept. corporateBody
associatedWith Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute. corporateBody
associatedWith Virginia Normal Institute corporateBody
associatedWith Waller, John L. (John Lightfoot), 1809-1854. person
associatedWith Wall, O. S. B. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Elyria OH US
Cleveland OH US
Chillicothe OH US
Township of Brownhelm OH US
Petersburg VA US
District of Columbia DC US
Louisa County VA US
Port-au-Prince 11 HT
Cincinnati OH US
Subject
African Americans--Biography
African American legislators--Biography
African Americans--Civil rights
Diplomatic and consular service, American
African American universities and colleges
Slavery
Practice of law
Reconstruction (U.S. history, 1865-1877)
African Americans--Education (Higher)
Occupation
African American college presidents--Washington (D.C.)
African American politicians--Virginia
Deans (Education)--Washington (D.C.)
Public officers--Washington (D.C.)
African American diplomats
African American college presidents--Virginia
Ambassadors--United States
African American lawyers--Ohio
African American educators--Washington (D.C.)
African American college presidents
Public officers--United States
African American lawyers--Washington (D.C.)
African American legislators--United States
Public officers--Ohio
Function

Person

Birth 1829-12-14

Death 1897-11-15

Male

Americans

English

Information

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