Description: This image of John Mercer Langston (1829-1897) is a reproduction of a full-length portrait, but it has been cropped so that only the subject's head is visible. The bearded Langston wears a stern expression.
Langston was an attorney, U.S. Representative, statesman, reformer, and an unwavering advocate of equal rights for African Americans. He was the first African American man to be admitted to the Ohio bar
Langston was born on December 14, 1829, in Louisa County, Virginia. His father, Ralph Quarles, was a wealthy white planter and slaveholder. His mother, Lucy Langston, was an emancipated slave. Langston's parents died from unrelated illnesses in 1834. He received an inheritance that ensured his financial independence.
Langston and his brothers Gideon and Charles went to live with one of his father's friends, William Gooch, in Chillicothe, Ohio. In 1838, Gooch moved to Missouri, a slave state. Fearing that he might lose his inheritance if he accompanied Gooch, Langston remained in Ohio, settling in Cincinnati. In 1843 the fourteen-year-old Langston enrolled in Oberlin College's Preparatory Department and eventually graduated from the Collegiate Department in 1849. He was the fifth African-American man to graduate from Oberlin. He then earned a master’s degree at Oberlin's School of Theology.
Langston was denied admittance to law school on the basis of his race, but he studied the law privately with attorney Philemon Bliss in Elyria, Ohio. He passed the bar exam in 1854, becoming Ohio's first African-American attorney.
Langston established a law practice in Brownhelm, Ohio, and won election as the town's clerk. In 1856 he moved to Oberlin, where he continued to practice law. He also served on the Oberlin Town Council and on the school board.
He was active in the black-rights movement. He and his brothers organized antislavery organizations at the state and local level. He assisted runaway slaves along the Underground Railroad in Ohio. He also supported and helped plan John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry, although he did not participate in the attack.
During the Civil War he recruited African-American soldiers for the Union cause. Langston helped form the 45th Massachusetts (the nation’s first black regiment), the 55th Massachusetts, and the 5th Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment.
Langston also called upon the federal government to grant African-American men the right to vote. He became the leader of the National Equal Rights League in 1864 and organized suffrage campaigns in several states, including Ohio.
Following the Civil War, Langston joined the Freedman's Bureau as its Educational Inspector. After leaving this position in 1868, he organized the law department of Howard University in Washington, DC. He permitted both women and racial minorities to enroll.
From 1875 to 1883 he served as United States Consul-General to Haiti and in 1885 became president of the Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute. In 1888 he won election to the United States House of Representative, becoming the first African American from Virginia elected to the U.S. Congress. He failed to win reelection in 1890. He retired from public life in 1894. Langston died on November 15, 1897. View on Ohio Memory. Image ID: AL05836 Subjects: Langston, John Mercer, 1829-1897; Underground Railroad--Ohio; Abolitionists; Lawyers--Ohio; Ohio History--State and Local Government--Law
Description: Portrait of Gertrude Foran Handrick of Cleveland, Ohio. Handrick was included on the "Ohio State Honor Roll" from the League of Women Voters of Ohio, ca. 1930, which listed prominent Ohio women involved in the suffrage movement. Her brief biography from the Honor Roll reads: "Gertrude Foran Handrick (Mrs. Franklin A.) was a member of the National American Woman's Suffrage Association. Through her father, Judge M. A. Foran, who was a staunch supporter of woman's suffrage, Mrs. Handrick came naturally to her devotion to the cause. Mrs. Handrick is a lawyer, a member of the American Bar Association, the Ohio State Bar Association, and the Cleveland and Cuyahoga Bar Association. She was the organizer and first president of the Wage-Earners' Suffrage League, a large group of business and professional
women organized under the Cleveland Woman's Suffrage party. Subsequently she was for a number of years, chairman of the Committee on the Legal Status of Women of the Cleveland League of Women Voters."
This photograph comes from the League of Women Voters of Ohio Collection. The League of Women Voters was first formed at the national level in early 1920 by Carrie Chapman Catt, President of the National Woman Suffrage Association. Soon, additional leagues began to form at the state and local level, with the League of Women Voters of Ohio being organized in May 1920 in Columbus. The League was first formed to empower women to use their newfound right to vote, and today its primary purpose remains citizen education. To this goal, it supports voter registration efforts, provides information on candidates and issues, sponsors debates and offers publications on public policy and voter engagement topics. View on Ohio Memory. Image ID: MSS354_B10_LWVO_GertrudeForanHandrick Subjects: Women--Suffrage; Social movements; League of Women Voters of Ohio; Suffragists; Activism; Lawyers--Ohio; Places: Cleveland (Ohio); Cuyahoga County (Ohio)
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