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JOHN MERCER LANGSTON (1829-1897)

JOHN MERCER LANGSTON (1829-1897)

John Mercer Langston, the youngest of four children, was born a free black in Louisa County, Virginia on December 14, 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.

At fourteen Langston began his studies at the Preparatory Department at Oberlin College. Known for its radicalism and abolitionist politics, Oberlin was the first college in the United States to admit black and white students.  Langston completed his studies in 1849, becoming the fifth African American male to graduate from Oberlin’s Collegiate Department. To read more click here.