NBC12 VIEWPOINT: The Sword and The Broom: The story of John Merc - NBC12 - WWBT - Richmond, VA News On Your Side

NBC12 VIEWPOINT: The Sword and The Broom: The story of John Mercer Langston

By: Kym Grinnage email

In recognition of Black History Month, I wanted to highlight a Virginian that some of you may be familiar with, but to many he is an unsung hero.

In the book The Sword and The Broom, the author Linda Salisbury retells the story of John Mercer Langston. Born in Louisa, Virginia in 1829, he and his siblings were the children of a wealthy white plantation owner and his emancipated slave. Langston was orphaned at age four, was moved to the free state of Ohio, and out of necessity learned to be self-reliant.

In addition to earning two degrees from Oberlin College, he was an abolitionist and a powerful orator, whom many say rivaled Frederick Douglass. In addition to being the first African American attorney in Ohio and the first to be accepted to practice before the Supreme Court, he founded Howard University’s law department and served as the first president of what is now known as Virginia State University.

After a bitter and racially-charged race for Congress in 1888, it first appeared that he had lost, but after Langston contested the race, he was finally seated near the end of his term as the first black Congressman from Virginia.

Of course, there is more to his story and it can be found in this new book, The Sword and The Broom.

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