I had the good fortune to be the keynote speaker at the Langston University 8th Annual Scholarship Luncheon, last week. Langston University is one of the Historical Black Colleges and Universities. It was founded by former slaves in 1897 as a Land Grant College in Langston, Oklahoma as the Colored Agriculture and Normal University. The school, located in the historical Black town of Langston, was officially named Langston University in 1941. It is located 40 miles northeast of Oklahoma City.
The city and the university are named in honor of a famous Black leader and Reconstruction period leader, John Mercer Langston. Today it boasts 861 students, according to Juan Williams and Dwayne Ashley's book, "I'll Find A Way or I'll Make One." The book is a tribute to Historically Black Colleges and Universities and chronicles the history of America's Black Colleges and Universities.
I am a native of Oklahoma with little or no real knowledge of what the state is about except what I have seen on television. What you see on television is about the 1889 race for land when the United States Government under President Grover Cleveland opened up the land to settlers. In opening up the land the U.S. and granted the land to settlers free of charge. Just come and take it in a massive race.
The only other thing I know about Oklahoma is what I read about the 1921 a race riot that broke out in Tulsa. The riot allegedly started because a Black man said something inappropriate to a White woman on an elevator. In fact the riot started because the Blacks were so prosperous with businesses including banks, theaters and other institutions that poor Whites couldn't stand it and trumped up a reason to destroy Black Tulsa.
The events are chronicled in what Whites call the destruction of Black Wall Street. During my visit to the Langston luncheon I learned more than I ever knew about my home state and how Blacks were treated. I note that Dr. James Bolton a Pasadena Alumni said to me that some Blacks resented the Tulsa business district being named after Wall Street because it was its own street and didn't need to be named after White financial institutions.
The oral history of Oklahoma was flowing around the table I sat, and I learned that even though Blacks were granted land as part of the April 22, 1889 race, some Whites soon found a way to take it away from them. One way was through economic trickery like saying the Black owner owed them money, which was especially true of land that was rich with oil. Another way to take the land was through plain old violence and threats of violence.
It is Ironic that Native Americans are called that by the White man. Indians had lived on the land before the Whites arrived but in their benevolence whites gave them some land too. Of course getting the land was all dependent on being able to fill out the paper work to the satisfaction of the governing whites.
One gentleman at my table told me of what some called "well brides." White men would kill an Indian land owner and marry his Indian widow. That would entitle him to co-ownership of her land. Then she would be found at the bottom of the well, dead. Once she was dead, the land belonged to him. I was also told about one Black town just outside of Tulsa called Glenpool where Whites took the whole town which was owned by a Black woman.
I couldn't help but think of something I had written called, "If you're so smart why aren't you rich?" The answer for some Black Oklahomans' was simple. The wealth was taken away from their ancestors who owned rich land but couldn't overcome the violence of or quasi-legal trickery of some whites. These are the same whites who have always found themselves in a superior bargaining position in the American Legal system.
Of course the same anger rises in me when I see Blacks using some of the same tactics to defeat Black wealth including Blacks refusing to do business with one another. In our business we even see some Blacks who won't advertise or publish legal notices with our paper. On the issue of legal notices, we have been an adjudicated newspaper of general circulation for Los Angeles County published in the city of Pasadena for years.
Let us not forget that Black colleges and universities are hurting for money. Donations are needed. Find a way to give back – ESPECIALLY IF YOU'RE AN ALUMNI! I suggested as part of my speech that Langston start a University of Phoenix-type campaign to add extension universities across the country. The University of Phoenix is a private university but there is no reason why a Black college can't have extensions across the country and on the west coast. With much of the University of Phoenix's instruction being online, likewise a Black college online could work too. This will extend the ability to educate more students while being a perpetual source of income. The need is still there. Fill it.
I also suggest that someone interview the graduates of some of the Langston alumni and write a book with their stories as inspiration and history that includes the stories of overcoming discrimination to get an education. An example is this years Alumni of the Year, Adolf Dulan who was literally born in a log cabin built by a family member just coming out of slavery.
Today he owns Dulan's Catering Company and two restaurants. He says he wanted to be a millionaire so bad he started the Millionaire's Men's Club to inspire himself and others to become millionaires. I would say mission accomplished.
The President of the Los Angeles Chapter of the Langston National Alumni is Mr. Elzie Evans, Jr., and the Vice President is Pasadena's own Dr. Earl Perry who is well known as the longtime organist for Metropolitan Baptist Church.