Hidden History: The Langston Centre adopting Langston HS’s motto to empower students

Hidden History

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) Established in 1893, Johnson City’s first African American high school, sat on the corner of Myrtle Avenue and Elm Street.

Langston High School taught African American students, during the segregation era, until the Supreme Court ruled segregation in education unconstitutional.

Years later, the center sat and became an eyesore, until Johnson City leaders transformed the historic high school into a multi-cultural learning center.

Thus, building a bridge from what the historical past was to an unlimited future for the community of Johnson City.

Michael Young stands inside The Langston Centre, where a photo hangs of he and his senior class on a trip to Washington, D.C.

“This will keep the legacy. This will keep the love of Langston, what Langston meant to the community. This centre will keep that alive,” Michael Young said.

Graduating from high school in 1965, Michael Young is part of the last graduating class of Langston High School.

“Through no full measure of my own, I am the last official graduate of Langston High School. My last name is Young,” he joked.

For more than 70 years, the high school taught African American students in Johnson City.

“The school was, in a word, a family, Young said. The academics were outstanding. The athletics at Langston, it was phenomenal. Our coaches were great, our teachers would just make you understand that you were valuable and that you could be and do whatever you wanted to be.

A photo of the Langston High School boys basketball team hangs in the gym, on the second floor of the now, Langston Centre.

Young notes the basketball team was impeccable.

“If it was basketball season and you didn’t play basketball, you made sure you were at the school to cheer the team,” Young said.

However, his fondest memory was when the high school band played on football nights.

This is a photo of the Langston High School girls basketball team.
The Langston High School marching band donned electric blue jackets with yellow buttons, like the one pictured here.

“There are people now who still talk about Langston’s high marching band,” Young recalled. The band would march from here to Roan Street and then they would get it on.

The Langston High School band began as an orchestra, according to Michael Young.

Adam Dickson said, “For segregated life, the school, along with the church, were hubs of learning, hubs of encouragement, empowerment.

Adam Dickson is the supervisor of The Langston Centre.

Adam Dickson stands next to a photo of a Langston High School graduating class photo.

More than 50 years after its closing, he explained Johnson City leaders gave the historic campus new life, renovating it into a centre for multicultural programming in areas of education and arts development.

PREVIOUS STORY: Renovations nearing completion at former Langston High School building

Dickson said, “One of the first things that the centre has done is that we’ve adopted the motto of Langston High School. We want to enter to learn, we want to depart to serve.”

Adam Dickson hopes to empower future generations to come from a centre with an unbelievably rich history.

“Sadly, there’s a lot about those photos that we don’t know, particularly the individuals in the photos. Each photo has its own story to tell and in particular, the character, the dignity of the individuals.”

However, for alumni like Young, the centre also allows for people to learn the stories of those who have since passed.

“All you have to do is walk the halls and you can feel it. You can feel the teachers, you can feel the students. You can feel the love. You can feel what Langston was,” Young said.

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