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Wed, 05.06.1835

Mary Patterson Langston, Abolitionist born

Mary Langston

*The birth of Mary Patterson Leary Langston is celebrated on this date in 1835.  She was a Black educator and abolitionist.  

Born Mary Sampson Patterson in North Carolina, she was the daughter of a formerly enslaved man who highly valued education; for this reason, he brought his family to Oberlin, Ohio, to secure a college education for his children.  While there, she met and married abolitionist Sheridan Lewis Leary in 1859.  While Mary was pregnant with her first daughter Louisa, Sheridan Leary left to join abolitionist John Brown in the Harper’s Ferry raid of 1859, where he was shot and killed. 

Sheridan and Mary socialized in anti-slavery groups that included other abolitionists such as Charles Langston. Leary and Langston also took part in the Oberlin-Wellington Rescue in 1858, where Charles was convicted of breaking the Fugitive Slave Act.  She enrolled in Oberlin College and obtained the degree of Bachelor of Arts in 1862.  In 1869 she married again, to the Ohio abolitionist Charles Henry Langston.

The family moved to Lawrence, Kansas, where they remained for the rest of their lives.  Mary Langston was a proud woman who advocated and supported anti-slavery causes with both her husbands.  In 1872 Charles and Mary's daughter Caroline Mercer Langston was born.  Mary raised her daughter Caroline’s son, who grew up to become the Harlem Renaissance author, Langston Hughes. She cared for her grandson until the time of her death in 1915. Hughes remembered his grandmother as an accomplished woman who enjoyed telling him about their great ancestors. 

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String-chewing bass players, Plucking rolled balls of sound From the jazz scented night Feeding hungry beat seekers Finger shaped heartbeats, Driving ivory nails Into their greedy eyes. Smoke crystals, from the nostrils Of released jazz demons, Crash from... MINGUS by Bob Kaufman.
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