Since African Americans were not permitted to attend institutions of higher education in Oklahoma Territory, several Black citizens appeared before the Oklahoma Industrial School and College Commission in 1892 to petition that Langston have a college. Eventually, Territorial Governor William Renfrow proposed a reform bill establishing a land grant college that was approved via a State House Bill in 1897. The Bill established the Colored Agricultural and Normal University.
Both the town and college were named for John Mercer Langston (1829-1897), a Black Virginia educator who organized the first Department of Law at Howard University, later serving as Acting President of the university and president of Virginia State College for Negroes. John Langston was also elected to the Virginia House of Representatives from 1890-1891.
The purpose of the college was to instruct male and female Colored persons in the art of teaching common and higher education in the agricultural, mechanical and industrial arts. The land on which the college was built had to be purchased by the citizens. Picnics, auctions, and bake sales raised money were held by black settlers to purchase the land. In 1898, the school was opened in a Presbyterian Church with an initial budget of $5,000.
The first president was Dr. Inman E. Page (1898-1915), the son of a former slave who had purchased freedom for himself and his family. During this administration the campus expanded to 160 acres, enrollment and faculty increased more than ten-fold, buildings and dorms were constructed. Langston College received eventually 100,000 acres in the state and New Mexico. Funds derived from leasing of these lands benefited the school greatly, as have New Morrill Act funds.
Isaac Berry McCutcheon was appointed the second president in 1915. At the same time, school and public officials debated whether Langston University should develop students for domestic, manual, and agricultural areas as advocated by Booker T. Washington, or to follow the teachings of W. E. B. DuBois. McCutcheon soon resigned due to that controversy and additional controversy surrounding his firing of a professor. John Miller Marquess served as president from 1916-1923 favored industrial education, and by the time he left most of the four-year college courses had been dropped.
Isaac William Young served as president from 1923-1927 and 1931-1935. A friend and appointee of Governor William H. Murray, he improved the library, Science Department, and other buildings on what had become a 320 acre campus. During his tenure the curriculum shifted from manual and technical training to arts and sciences. Zachary T. Hubert was president in 1927-1931. He was described as an intellectual with little interest in political matters. J. W. Sanford was appointed president from 1935-1939 and completed including the Administration Building, Sanford Hall, and an annex to the men’s dorm during his tenure.
G. Lamar Harrison probably left the biggest mark on the college when he served from 1940-1960. During his tenure the school improved its library and buildings, brought in more faculty with doctorates. The high school became part of the teacher training unit, and the school name of the school was changed to Langston University in 1941.
The mission of Langston University, a land grant institution, is to provide excellence in instruction leading to associate, baccalaureate, and master’s degrees, thus placing its graduates in a highly favorable position to enter graduate/professional school. The curriculum has nearly forty academic programs, including a professional program of nursing, and provides both the baccalaureate and associate degrees, as well as a Masters in Education. The university’s faculty, staff, and student body are today the most integrated in the state.
Informative and entertaining assemblies are usually on Thursday mornings. They are sponsored by student organizations, faculty and staff. The Department of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and the Student Affairs Division conduct intramural sports and recreational activities during the academic year.
Music organizations and ensembles are open by audition. The University Choir, Marching Band, Jazz Band, Symphonic Band provide ample musical outlets. During the academic year, theatrical productions are presented by the Langston University Dust Bowl Players. Any enrolled student is eligible to participate in productions. FM Radio Station KALU is student-staffed and broadcasts music, national and campus news. Each year, LU brings to the campus performances by renowned artists from various fields of entertainment. A typical series of art may include serious music, dance, and theatre. Honor Citations and Organizations are widely supported by the Registrar’s Office.
ADDRESS: Highway 33, Langston, OK