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Diplomat John Mercer Langston

Source: Library of Congress / Getty


John Mercer Langston was born in 1829. He was an American abolitionist, attorney, educator, activist, diplomat, and politician. He was the founding Dean of the law school at Howard University and helped create the department and was the first President of what is now Virginia State University and historically Black College.  

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He was elected a US representative for Virginia and wrote from the Virginia Plantation to the National capital or the 1st and onlylNegro representative in Congress from the Old Dominion. He also notably became the first African American lawyer in the state. Ohio Born Free in Virginia to a freedwoman of mixed ethnicity and a white English immigrant planter in 1888, Langston was elected to the US Congress. 

He was the first representative of color from Virginia in the Jim Crow era of the later 19th 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, authorizing the. Enforcement of their constitutional franchise rights. 






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Russ Parr’s Black History Moment: John Mercer Langston  was originally published on

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