Recognition of America's First African-American Elected Official

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Recognition of America's First African-American Elected Official
by Charles Bernard Rangel

Recognition of America's First African-American Elected Official. Congressional Record: June 18, 2008 (Extensions of Remarks) Page E1258. DOCID:cr18jn08-30.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Mr. RANGEL. Madam Speaker, I rise today to acknowledge and pay special tribute to John Mercer Langston, America's first African- American Congressman from Virginia, a prominent abolitionist, and founder of Howard University's law school.

While the world is watching America's historic presidential election, with Barack Obama as the first African-American Democratic nominee, it is necessary to recognize the trailblazers that have come before him and the barriers that they have brought down.

John Mercer Langston was born in a small county, Louisa, Virginia, in 1829 to a wealthy white plantation owner and an emancipated slave of Indian and Black ancestry. During slavery Langston was able to overcome several racial obstacles. He moved to Ohio when he was young where he attended Oberlin College and obtained a bachelor's and master's degree. He tried to pursue a law degree but racism stopped him from taking the usual route of getting a law degree. He was admitted to Ohio's bar after studying law under attorney and Representative Philemon Bliss. Similar to Obama, Langston was a strong leader and organizer. Langston organize antislavery societies at a local and state level. He recruited African-American men to fight in the Union Army during the Civil War. He was a law scholar, a dean and founder of Howard University's Law School. He was elected in 1888 and served as a shining example to those that came after him.

Barack Obama's historic achievement would not have been possible if it was not for people like John Mercer Langston who triumphed over racial hurdles. It is important to acknowledge that it has taken about 180 years to finally see an African-American so close to the Presidency. This is all possible because of the collective bravery and sacrifices of so many before him, and especially the catalyst of John Mercer Langston's, from Louisa County, great accomplishments.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).