207 East College Street
Oberlin Architecture, College and Town -- A Guide to its
Social History (Oberlin, Ohio: Oberlin College, 1985).
John Mercer Langston, the famous black abolitionist and civil rights
leader, lived here from 1856 to 1871. Born in bondage on a Virginia plantation,
the son of a white master and a slave mother, Langston was freed when
his father died, and sent north to be educated. He graduated from Oberlin
in 1849, read law with an antislavery judge in Elyria, and became the
first black lawyer to practice in Ohio.
He proudly recalled in his autobiography that he was also the first colored
homeowner on East College, the most fashionable street in town. Shortly
after moving into this newly built house, Langston emerged as the acknowledged
leader of the local black community, and won far-reaching prominence in
abolitionist circles. On the night in January 1863 when news arrived in
Oberlin of the Emancipation Proclamation, Langston read it to a packed
crowd in the college chapel, and amid rockets, bonfires, and rifle salutes,
black townsmen marched up East College to Langston's house to honor the
Langston left Oberlin after the war to work with the Freedmen's Bureau.
He later joined the faculty of Howard University's law school. President
Hayes named him minister to Haiti in the late 1870s, and a decade later
he served a term in Congress as a Virginia Republican. He died in Washington
Langston's home was placed on the National Register in 1975. In 1983,
Oberlin's middle school on North Main was named for him.