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John Mercer Langston
John Mercer Langston, the youngest of four children, was born a free black in Louisa County, Virginia in 1829. Langston gained distinction as an abolitionist, politician, and attorney.  Despite the prominence of his slaveowner father, Ralph Quarles, Langston took his surname from his mother, Lucy Langston, an emancipated slave of Indian and black ancestry.  When both parents died of unrelated illnesses in 1834, five-year-old Langston and his older siblings were transported to Missouri where they were taken in by William Gooch, a friend of Ralph Quarles.
John Mercer Langston, the youngest of four children, was born a free black in Louisa County, Virginia in 1829. Langston gained distinction as an abolitionist, politician, and attorney.  Despite the prominence of his slaveowner father, Ralph Quarles, Langston took his surname from his mother, Lucy Langston, an emancipated slave of Indian and black ancestry.  When both parents died of unrelated illnesses in 1834, five-year-old Langston and his older siblings were transported to Missouri where they were taken in by William Gooch, a friend of Ralph Quarles.



Together with his older brothers Gideon and Charles, John Langston became active in the Abolitionist movement. He helped runaway slaves to escape to the North along the Ohio part of the Underground Railroad. In 1858 he and Charles partnered in leading the Ohio Anti-Slavery Society, with John acting as president and traveling to organize local units, and Charles' managing as executive secretary in Cleveland.

In 1863 when the government approved founding of the United States Colored Troops, Langston was appointed to recruit African Americans to fight for the Union Army. He enlisted hundreds of men for duty in the Massachusetts Fifty-fourth and Fifty-fifth regiments, in addition to 800 for Ohio's first black regiment. After the war, he was appointed inspector general for the Freedmen's Bureau, a Federal organization that assisted freed slaves and tried to oversee labor contracts; it also ran a bank and helped establish schools for freedmen and their children.

Even before the end of the war, Langston worked for issues of black suffrage and opportunity. He believed that black men's service had earned their right to vote, and that it was fundamental to their creating an equal place in society. In 1864 Langston chaired the committee whose agenda was ratified by the black national convention: they called for abolition of slavery, support of racial unity and self-help, and equality before the law. To accomplish this program, the convention founded the National Equal Rights League and elected Langston president. He served until 1868. Like the later National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the League was based in state and local organizations. Langston traveled widely to build support. "By war's end, nine state auxiliaries had been established; some twenty months later, Langston could boast of state leagues nearly everywhere."

In 1868 Langston moved to Washington, D.C. to establish and serve as dean of Howard University's law school; it was the first black law school in the country. Appointed acting president of the school in 1872, and vice president of the school, Langston worked to establish strong academic standards. He also hoped to create the kind of open environment he had known at Oberlin College. Langston was passed over for the permanent position of president of Howard University School of Law by a committee that refused to disclose the reason.





President Ulysses S. Grant appointed Langston a member of the Board of Health of the District of Columbia.[9] In 1877 President Hayes appointed Langston as U.S. Minister to Haiti, he also served as chargé d'affaires to the Dominican Republic.

In 1885 Langston returned to the US and Virginia, where he was named the first president of Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute, a historically black college (HBCU) at Petersburg. There he also began to build a political base. In 1888, Langston was urged to run for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives by fellow Republicans, both black and white. Leaders of the biracial Readjuster Party, which had held political power in Virginia from 1879–1883, did not support his candidacy. Langston ran as a Republican and lost to his Democratic opponent. He contested the results of the election because of voter intimidation and fraud.

After 18 months Langston was declared the winner and took his seat in the US Congress. He served for the remaining six months of the term, and then lost his bid for reelection, as Democrats regained control of Virginia. Langston was the first black person elected to Congress from Virginia, and he was the only one for another century.

Langston was named as a member of the board of trustees of St Paul Normal and Industrial School in the incorporation papers passed by an act of the Virginia General Assembly on March 4, 1890.





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