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John Mercer Langston 1829-1897

American abolitionist, attorney, educator, activist, diplomat, and politician. He was the first dean of the law school at Howard University and helped create the department. He was the first president of what is now Virginia State University, a historically black college.

Born a free black in Virginia to a freedwoman of mixed race and a Virginia planter father, in 1888 Langston was elected to the U.S. Congress as the first representative of color from Virginia. 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. Even before the end of the war, Langston worked for issues of black suffrage and opportunity. He believed that black men's service in the war had earned their right to vote, and that it was fundamental to their creating an equal place in society.
The most important African American during the Civil War Period.