Image courtesy of Library of Congress
LANGSTON, John Mercer (1829-1897)

LANGSTON, JOHN MERCER, a Representative from Virginia; born in Louisa, Louisa County, Va., December 14, 1829; attended the common schools in Ohio; was graduated from the literary department of Oberlin College in 1849 and from the theological department in 1852; studied law in Elyria, Ohio; was admitted to the bar in 1854 and commenced practice in Oberlin, Ohio; took an active part in recruiting black troops during the Civil War, especially for the Fifty-fourth and Fifty-fifth Massachusetts and Fifth Ohio Regiments; member of the council of Oberlin 1865-1867; member of the city board of education in 1867 and 1868; appointed inspector general of the Bureau of Freedmen, Refugees, and Abandoned Lands in 1868; moved to Washington, D.C., and practiced law; dean of the law department of Howard University 1869-1876; appointed and commissioned by President Grant a member of the Board of Health of the District of Columbia in 1871; appointed by President Hayes Minister Resident and consul general to Haiti and Chargé d'Affaires to Santo Domingo; elected vice president and acting president of Howard University in 1872; delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1876; returned to Virginia, having been elected president of the Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute, Petersburg, Va., in 1885; delegate to the Republican State convention in 1890; successfully contested as a Republican the election of Edward C. Venable to the Fifty-first Congress and served from September 23, 1890, to March 3, 1891; unsuccessful candidate for reelection in 1890 to the Fifty-second Congress; died in Washington, D.C., on November 15, 1897; interment in Woodlawn Cemetery.

Fisk University
Special Collections, John Hope and Aurelia E. Franklin Library
Nashville, TN
Papers: 1853-1898, approximately 3 feet (900 items).
The papers of John Mercer Langston consist of correspondence, speeches, drafts of writings, receipts, estate papers, banking papers, handbills, passports, minutes, a scrapbook, and newspaper clippings. Subjects covered in the papers include slavery in the United States, the abolition movement, Reconstruction, American relations with Haiti and the Dominican Republic, Howard University, the War Department, and the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands.


Howard University
Moorland-Spingarn Research Center
Washington, DC
Papers: 1870-1891, 2 linear feet.
Scrapbooks of John Mercer Langston containing newspapers clippings, broadsides, programs, and invitations relating to race relations and politics in the United States. Includes information about the Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute (now Virginia State University) in Petersburg, Virginia, and the John G. Whittier Historical Association in Memphis, Tennessee. A finding aid is available in the repository.


Library of Congress
Manuscript Division
Washington, DC
Microfilm: 1853-1898, 1 reel.
The papers of John Mercer Langston consist of correspondence, speeches, drafts of writings, receipts, estate papers, banking papers, handbills, passports, minutes, a scrapbook, and newspaper clippings. Subjects covered in the papers include slavery in the United States, the abolition movement, Reconstruction, American relations with Haiti and the Dominican Republic, Howard University, the War Department, and the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands. The original papers are at Fisk University.


New York Public Library
New York, NY
Microfilm: In the Eugene Maxmilien Haitian collection, 1847-1933.
Correspondents include John Mercer Langston.


Virginia State University
Johnson Memorial Library
Petersburg, VA
Papers: 1886-1887, 1 box.
Collection includes some correspondence addressing admission of potential students and employees, as well as several letters from state officials pertaining to Virginia State.

  • Blodgett, Geoffrey. "John Mercer Langston and the Case of Edmonia Lewis: Oberlin, 1862." Journal of Negro History 53 (July 1968): 201-18.
  • Bromberg, Alan B. "John Mercer Langston: Black Congressman From The Old Dominion." Virginia Cavalcade 30 (Autumn 1980): 60-67.
  • Cheek, William F. "Culture and Kinship: John Mercer Langston in Cincinnati, 1840-1843." Queen City Heritage 47 (Spring 1989): 3-22.
  • ___. "Forgotten Prophet: The Life of John Mercer Langston." Ph.D. diss., University of Virginia, 1961.
  • ___. "A Negro Runs For Congress: John Mercer Langston and the Virginia Campaign of 1888." Journal of Negro History 52 (January 1967): 14-34.
  • Cheek, William F., and Aimee Lee Cheek. John Mercer Langston and the Fight for Black Freedom, 1829-65. Urbana, Ill.: University of Illinois Press, 1989.
  • Foner, Philip S. " The First Publicly-Elected Black Official in the United States Reports His Election." Negro History Bulletin 37 (April/May 1974): 237.
  • "John Mercer Langston" in Black Americans in Congress, 1870-2007. Prepared under the direction of the Committee on House Administration by the Office of History & Preservation, U.S. House of Representatives. Washington: Government Printing Office, 2008.
  • Langston, John Mercer. Emancipation and Enfranchisement. Washington: N.p., 1875.
  • ___. Freedom and Citizenship: Selected Lectures and Addresses of Hon. John Mercer Langston, LL.D., U.S. Minister Resident at Haiti. Reprint, Miami, Fla.: Mnemosyne Publishing Co., Inc., 1969.
  • ___. From the Virginia Plantation to the National Capitol. 1894. Reprint, New York: Arno Press, 1969.
  • ___. The Other Phase of Reconstruction: Speech of Hon. John Mercer Langston, delivered at Congregational Tabernacle, Jersey City, New Jersey, April 17, 1877. Washington: Gibson Brothers, printers, 1877.
  • Langston National Monument, Historical and Emancipation Association of Virginia. Souvenir Journal of the 35th National Emancipation Celebration. Alexandria, Va.: Magnus L. Robinson, 1898.
  • Levstik, Frank R. "Langston, John Mercer." In Dictionary of American Negro Biography, edited by Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, pp. 382-84. New York: Norton and Co., 1982.
  • Patterson, Zella J. Black, and Lynette L. Wert. Langston University: A History. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1979.
  • U.S. Congress. House. Contested Election Case of John M. Langston vs. E.C. Venable. 51st Cong. 1st Sess. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1889.