Saturday, June 07, 2008

The Obama Before Obama

As mentioned in the past, the greater sum of American history is rarely written in books. The small burg of Louisa, Virginia was the 1929 birthplace of the first Black person to hold elected office in the United States. John Mercer Langston was the son of Ralph Quarles, a wealthy white slaveowner, and Lucy Langston, an emancipated slave. Both of his parents died when he was four years old and he was raised by a friend of his father in Ohio. Langston was the fifth Black person to graduate from Oberlin College.

John Mercer Langston was elected township clerk of Brownhelm, Ohio, on April 2, 1855 by popular vote, becoming the first "Negro" elevated to public office by popular vote. He was elected to a number of local offices in Ohio, was active in the Black freedom movement with Frederick Douglass, served as educational inspector for the Freedmen's Bureau, founded what would become the Howard University law school, and was the US minister to Haiti. In 1888, he ran for Congress in Virginia's 4th Congressional District as an independent; his victory was initially denied, but he contested the election results and eventually won his set.

It is interesting to note that John Langston was elected to office five years before Abraham Lincolm became president. It has been a long 153 years between him becoming the Brownhelm, Ohio township clerk and Barack Obama standing on the cusp of becoming the President of the United States. From then until now, less than 4 percent of elected officials in the US are Black.

Historian William Cheek, who co-authored "John Mercer Langston and the Fight for Black Freedom, 1829-65" with wife Aimee Lee Cheek, describes Langston as slim and debonair, of mixed-raced parentage, highly educated, an expert in constitutional law, a community organizer (he went around Ohio setting up schools), and a soaring orator who sought to unify a divided country after the Civil War. The similarities between Langston and Obama are uncanny... John Mercer Langston was Barack Hussein Obama before Obama!

Read the entire Washington Post article titled "The 'Obama Before Obama'" here.


plez sez: john mercer langston, a extraordinary american, relegated to the dusty footnotes of us history. the first american of african descent elected to office sought elected office six years BEFORE the first shots of the civil war were fired.
end of history lesson.

class dismissed.

3 comments:

Villager said...

Excellent sharing our OURstory! I do not remembering hearing about him before. I appreciate you sharing the information with your blog readers. I'm going to make him my 'Village Hero' today and I plan to refer to him in my keynote speech next Friday in Dayton OH!

peace, Villager

Truthiz said...

I'd like to second Villager's response, Plez...

"Excellent sharing our OURstory!"

rikyrah said...

I enjoy the history lesson, and it's about time to push it forth.