John Mercer Langston (American National Biography)

William Cheek and Aimee Lee Cheek, "Langston, John Mercer," American National Biography Online, February 2000,
In 1856 the Langstons began a fifteen-year residency in Oberlin. Elected repeatedly to posts on the town council and the board of education, he solidified his reputation as a competent public executive and adroit attorney. In his best-known case, Langston successfully defended Edmonia Lewis, a student accused of poisoning two of her Oberlin classmates (who recovered); Lewis would become the first noted African-American sculptor. In promoting militant resistance to slavery, Langston helped stoke outrage over the federal prosecution under the Fugitive Slave Law of thirty-seven of his white and black townsmen and others involved in the 1858 Oberlin-Wellington rescue of fugitive slave John Price. Immediately, Langston organized the new black Ohio State Anti-Slavery Society, which he headed, to channel black indignation over the case. While his brother Charles Henry Langston, one of the two rescuers convicted, repudiated the law in a notable courtroom plea, Langston urged defiance of it in dozens of speeches throughout the state. Langston supported the plan by John Brown (1800-1859) to foment a slave uprising, although he did not participate in the 1859 raid on Harpers Ferry. Following the outbreak of the Civil War, once recruitment of northern black troops began in early 1863, he raised hundreds of black volunteers for the Massachusetts Fifty-fourth and Fifty-fifth regiments and for Ohio's first black regiment.
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