Oklahoma History Center

The town of Langston in Logan County is located on State Highway 33, ten miles northeast of Guthrie. The name honors John Mercer Langston, an African American educator and U.S. congressman from Virginia. Langston and Brooksville differ from the other thirteen surviving All-Black towns because they began in Oklahoma Territory. Although E. P. McCabe has been credited for founding the town, Charles Robbins, a white man, owned the land and filed a town survey and plat in 1891. The two men opened the town on April 22, 1890. McCabe initiated the Langston City Herald in October 1890, using it to promote African American migration to Oklahoma and the newborn Langston community.

Reportedly, by 1892 there were twenty-five retail businesses, including a bank, and the town's first common school opened. In 1893 Rev. Bishop Theophile Meerschaert and the Benedictine Sisters established a Roman Catholic mission in the community. In 1895 the town gained limited telephone service. In 1897, through the influence of McCabe, the Oklahoma Territorial Legislature established the Colored Agricultural and Normal University (later Langston University) at Langston. The Western Age and Church and State newspapers followed the City Herald, but none continued into the 1920s. In 1890 the population stood at 251, increasing to 339 in 1910. The college helped Langston endure the Great Depression, which depopulated many of Oklahoma's small towns, black and white. In 1930 the U.S. Census reported a population of 351, slowly rising to 685 in 1950, and declining to 443 in 1980.

Many prominent Oklahomans have made Langston their home or were affiliated with the university, including Melvin Tolson, Ada Louis Sipuel Fisher, Clara Luper, E. Melvin Porter, Frederick Moon, Marques Haynes, Zelia Breaux, Isaac W. Young, Inman Page, and Zella Black Patterson. Simon Alexander Haley, the father of acclaimed author Alex Haley, taught at the college. Langston University Cottage Row Historic District (NR 9001593) and the Morris House (NR 94001082) have been added to the National Register of Historic Places. In 2000 there were 1,670 residents.

Larry O'Dell, Langston, in The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, Dianna Everett, et al., eds. (Oklahoma City: Oklahoma Historical Society), 832.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Jere W. Roberson, Edward P. McCabe and the Langston Experiment, The Chronicles of Oklahoma 51 (Fall 1973). Kaye M. Teall, Black History in Oklahoma: A Resource Book (Oklahoma City: Oklahoma City Public Schools, 1971). Arthur Tolson, A History of Langston, Oklahoma, 1890-1950 (M.A. thesis, Oklahoma State University, 1952). Arthur Tolson, The Negro in Oklahoma Territory, 1889-1907: A Study in Racial Discrimination, (Ph.D. diss., University of Oklahoma, 1966). Zella Patterson with Lynette Wert, Langston University: A History (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1979). Zella Patterson, Churches of Langston (Oklahoma City, Okla.: Western Heritage Books, 1982).

Langston City plat map

Men at Langston University, 1932

Presbyterian church where Langston held its first classes

Machine Shop at Langston, c. 1900

Joe E. Johnson, Fullback for Langston, 1924

Main College Building, Langston, 1900

Class from Langston School, c. 1898-1903