Black citizens living in Oklahoma Territory appeared before the Oklahoma Industrial School and College Commission in July 1892 to petition that the city of Langston have a college. The school was established as the Colored Agricultural and Normal University in 1897 with a purpose to instruct “both male and female Colored persons in the art of teaching various branches which pertain to a common school education….in the agricultural, mechanical and industrial arts.” There was, however, a stipulation that the land on which the college would be built would have to be purchased by the citizens. As a result, picnics, auctions and bake sales were held to raise money–penny by penny, members of the community contributed to the founding of Langston. Within a year, the land was purchased. The school opened in a Presbyterian Church with an initial budget of $5,000. Both the town and the school were named for John Mercer Langston, a black Virginia educator prominent in public affairs who organized the first Department of Law at Howard University.
Notable Alumni Include: the first African American woman pilot Bessie Coleman; singer Jennifer Hudson; and former president of Fisk University Dr. Henry Ponder.