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Education Begins

September 5, 2001

Historian's Notes

The beginning of an institution of higher learning is an exciting time for any town. I found this topic interesting on many levels.


All information for this piece came from the Langston University website:

Almanac Transcript

Do you have all of your school supplies ready?

Education begins this week on the Oklahoma Audio Almanac.

Although there were places of higher education in Oklahoma Territory no such college or university allowed blacks to enroll or attend classes. Territorial Governor William Renfrow when petitioned by concerned citizens proposed a reform bill founding a land grant college through the Morrill Act of 1890. In March of 1897 House Bill 151 was passed officially establishing the Colored Agricultural and Normal University in Langston, Oklahoma Territory. The official purpose of the university, according to state officials at the time, was to instruct both “male and female colored persons in the art of teaching various branches which pertain to a common school education and in such higher education as may be deemed advisable, and in the fundamental laws of the United States in the rights and duties of citizens in the agricultural, mechanical and industrial arts.”

Although the state government officially okayed the founding of the new school, it was stipulated within the bill that land for the school would have to be purchased by the citizens. Hundreds of bake sales, picnics and auctions later, the money was raised and the land purchased. The citizens of Langston did not wait until an official schoolhouse was built to begin classes. It was in this week of 1898 that the first official classes of Langston University were held. Students met in the Langston Presbyterian Church, and the school began under the direction of President Inman E. Page. Although working with a meager budget of $5,000.00 President Page was still able to expand the campus to 160 acres, oversee an enrollment increase from 45 students to 160, a faculty increase from 4 to 35 and the building of dormitories and classroom buildings.

The funding for the university at Langston as provided for by the state legislature was minimal, and the small school struggled during the early years. The Enabling Act passed in 1906 provided for each school a section of land to be used for building revenue, and Langston eventually received more than 100,000 acres. This appropriation of land and the revenue derived from it helped to secure the university financial and insure its lasting role in Oklahoma academia.

Langston University beginning a lasting tradition of excellence this week in 1898.

I'm Steven Kite.

The Oklahoma Audio Almanac is a production of the OSU Library and Oklahoma's Public Radio.

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