History of John Mercer Langston
John Mercer Langston (1829-1897) was born in Louisa County, Virginia. He was the third son of a freed woman (Lucy Langston) and her former white master (Ralph Quarles); both died while he was young. As an heir to a portion of his father's estate, Langston received the finest schooling available. He graduated with honors (1849) from Oberlin College, the nation's oldest coedu-
cational institution and, in 1835, the first to
admit African-American students.
A towering leader of the period after the Reconstruction (1867-1877), surprisingly, Langston's life is most closely associated with that of his brother's grandson - Langston Hughes, the American writer, poet, novelist, and playwright, most known for his work during the Harlem Renaissance.
Langston led a life filled with unparalleled accomplishments during an era when racial prejudice and discrimination proved significant barriers to African Americans. As a result, numerous monuments and honors across the nation bear testament to his educational and political achievements (see partial listing below). For example, within blocks of Langston Bar and Grille, the Federal government erected (1938) the city's first public housing complex to provide affordable dwellings for the city's Depression homeless. Designed by Hilyard Robinson - a Howard University graduate and pioneer in the field of government housing for the poor - Langston Terrace received architectural acclaim for the clean, straightforward international-style lines of the buildings and its Bas-relief decorations.
A partial listing of John Langston's many achievements and accomplishments include the following: