Oklahoma’s Own HBCU: Langston University

Oklahoma is the home of a Historically Black College and University, Langston University. HBCUs hold a rich history, and nothing says that louder than the band.

Wednesday, February 22nd 2023, 10:22 pm



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Oklahoma is the home of a Historically Black College and University, Langston University. HBCUs hold a rich history, and nothing says that louder than the band.

“It is good because of the culture. This allows us to go ahead and be ourselves,” Mark Gordon, Langston’s band director said.

Their roots run deep dating back to the 19th century and their traditions are being recognized everywhere.

Langston University band director Mark Gordon said the HBCU Band style is incomparable.

“At an HBCU school, they come to support the football team, but they come to see half time,” Gordon said.

“Our style is more high energy, high energy, high standard, very animated type of marching style. It's very memorable.”

There are more than 200 students in the marching band and it's steadily growing.

“We are like ambassadors. Some students will never see the university, but they'll see the band and from seeing the band program, they'll come to the university.”

Langston University is the only HBCU in Oklahoma and like many others it started from humble beginnings. Freedmen in one of Oklahoma's 13 existing all-Black towns were looking for a fresh start along with Black people migrating from the South.

“It was the end of, or almost the end of, reconstruction and the beginning of Jim Crow. So, that would've been foremost on their minds, so they wanted a town and as part of that town they wanted a high-ed institution,” Dr. Emily Patterson-Harris said.

Langston University was founded in 1897. It was called the Colored Agricultural and Normal University. The first class consisted of around 40 students that met in a small church with a goal to provide Black people with a higher education.

“I want to be clear, HBCUs forever have welcomed everyone but it was for sure a place where if you were African American you can attend,” Dr. Patterson-Harris said.

The home of the Langston Lions grew from a small church to a university with several campuses in Oklahoma. 

The first class paved the way, but it wasn't easy. Over the years, HBCUs have battled issues such as Jim Crow laws and fought for funding. Despite the storms, Langston continues to produce nurses, teachers, politicians…and thousands of graduates.

“We like to talk about the HBCU experience, and I believe that experience is a nurturing one, but with expectations,” Dr. Patterson-Harris said.

Today, around 2,000 students attend the university, more than 80% are Black.

“I did not choose Langston, Langston chose me,” Elija Weaver said.

It was this HBCU experience that attracted Elija Weaver from Kansas City to attend Langston.

“In high school, I never had a Black teacher. I went to a predominantly white high school. I was the first African American male to graduate with honors in my school history,” Weaver said.

Weaver said he was accepted to more than 20 universities, but felt like he could really make his mark at Langston.

“As soon as I stepped down here on this campus, I remember the day it was July 27, 2019. I came to this campus wanting to be a working person,” Weaver said.

He became a member of the Beta Kappa Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Incorporated.

“We are a lifelong fraternity. Our brotherhood is strong,” Weaver said.

He is a Thurgood Marshall College Fund recipient and SGA president who helps give out more than $50,000 in scholarships. 

“I was able to get out of my comfort zone. I was very shy, timid, didn't speak out a lot and going to an HBCU, it brought that out of me,” Weaver said.

As Weaver prepares for graduation, he describes his time at Langston as, not just getting an HBCU experience, but one that was life changing.

“They saw something in me, they invested in me, with my scholarship being here at Langston University they invested in me and I’m getting that return on that investment,” Weaver said.

Many HBCU graduates would say it teaches you to find the Lion in yourself. 

“Somewhat like an incubator experience I think because once you go out into the world you have more confidence,” Dr. Patterson-Harris said. 

“Our mission never ends and we just keep moving forward.”

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