The Sword and The Broom
Linda Salisbury’s retelling of John Mercer Langston’s life story is closely based on his 534-page autobiography From the Virginia Plantation to the National Capital (published in 1894). Langston’s career in education, politics, and as a champion of Constitutional rights for all, is stunning, yet largely unknown today.
A contemporary and rival of Frederick Douglass, Langston had many firsts in his personal and professional life despite his racially mixed heritage that classified him as black. His father, Captain Ralph Quarles, was a wealthy white plantation owner in Virginia, and his mother, Lucy Langston, was Ralph’s former slave with a heritage of Native-American and black. Langston was orphaned at age four, and was taken to Ohio, a free state. It was there that he was educated, became involved in the abolition movement, received two degrees from Oberlin College, and began his many career firsts as a black citizen. He was known as an eloquent and powerful orator.
He founded Howard University’ law school, served as its dean, and was the first president of what is now Virginia State University. In 1890, he was seated in Congress, the first black congressman from the Commonwealth of Virginia, despite the fraudulent election in 1888 that denied him his seat for nineteen months. His story of persevering over discrimination and racism, his numerous achievements, and his ongoing fight for the rights of all, is an inspiration and relevant today.
The retelling includes additional information about the times, plus photographs and images
"It’s terrific. Given that today’s the day before Christmas Eve, I have already spent more time than I can spare reading it. I have made myself put it down. Looking forward to more. It’s a beautiful publication and I am massively impressed."
--Alice Dalton Brown
"Linda Salisbury, in her narrative of John Mercer Langston’s life, coaxes us to a rich understand of the challenges facing a black man in post-Civil War times. It is not only a scholarly work, filled with notes and archival pictures, but also a very readable account. As a teacher of middle school, I feel this book is suitable, and indeed I would recommend It, for ages 12 and above. It is surely a piece of history most of us have not learned in school. As such it is also an eye-opening account for the adult reader. John Mercer Langston’s life is an inspiration to all. With his education from Oberlin College, he had the knowledge, but also the persistence to break many barriers. He was the first black attorney in the state of Ohio, as well as the first black man accepted to practice law before the Supreme Court. After a bitter election of 1888, he was also the first black Congressman from Virginia, the state he and his brothers left when he was orphaned at four years old.
"A stunning and eye-opening book for all Americans!"
--Nancy Bailey Miller--
"As an Oberlin grad (classmate of author), history buff, and writer, I had a slight familiarity with the name John Mercer Langston (1829-1897). Oberlin named a dorm after him, I'd read about the Wellington rescue in The Town That Started the Civil War by Nat Brandt, and I knew he was a forbear of Langston Hughes. But I had no idea what a fascinating character Langston is, as a brilliant, pre-Civil War biracial student of theology and law, rival of Frederick Douglass, reconstruction-era Congressman from Virginia, and later ambassador to Haiti. More amazing to me is that I taught English at Howard University in D.C. for five years but never heard that Langston founded the Law School. The book is a very easy read with many illustrations and a list of sources but no footnotes that distract. This book is an important addition to understanding a period of history and race relations that reverberates to the present."
"Not only was Langston handsome, but as a speaker and public servant in the deepest sense, he was Superman on steroids! I'm so glad to know about him - not least because I doubt I would have plowed through his entire autobiography at this point so the young-adult version is perfect for me. What a gift you have given everyone who encounters the book and, through it, John Langston. I appreciate all the research you did to pull it together, including filling in some gaps when you were able to find supplemental information." --Molly Martindale, California
"I am so impressed with your book on JML. What a wonderful read! I really loved it."
Brownhelm (Ohio) Historical Association