Post-emancipation, Black Americans were fighting tooth and nail for enfranchisement and access – especially in politics. So, when John Mercer Langston lost his bid for the 1889 Republican ticket, he suspected something racist was afoot. He was right.
Running for office was his attempt to insert the Black voice into American socio-political life. Langston, the first Black lawyer in the country, faced opposition at every turn. His racist opponent wouldn’t even debate him!
He won – but the establishment kept fighting him.
It took 18 MONTHS of battle for his win to be confirmed! Afterward, bitter racists completely sabotaged his re-election campaign. So what did he do with what remained of his short stint in Congress?
He gave a powerful speech that was the warning racist whites feared: “We will increase and multiply until, instead of finding every day five hundred Black babies turning their bright eyes to greet the rays of the sun, the number shall be five thousand ... There is no way to get rid of us. This is our native country." Congress was stunned.