The Langston Centre, a facility focused on fostering multiculturalism in Johnson City, is preparing to offer several new and returning programs this spring.
Starting in early 2022, the facility will begin offering a series of tours called the “Langston Experience.”
Langston High School was built during the Jim Crow era and opened in 1893 before ultimately closing in 1965 with integration. The center is built on the remnants of the old building.
“We’ve heard a lot about the divisiveness of the time,” said Langston Centre Supervisor Adam Dickson. “We’ve heard about segregation and the underbelly of segregation, but it’s also important, at least from our viewpoint, to understand that there was a culture within segregation that focused on these themes of character, excellence, resilience.”
Dickson said the center has told this story before, but these tours will mark a more intentional effort to flesh out the history of the school. That could, for example, involve discussing the role of educational excellence during segregation.
“Because of social Darwinism there was this notion about Black people being ignorant or Black people being animalistic — a lot of pseudoscience of the time,” Dickson said. “This building reinforced a notion of ‘Yes, you are intelligent. Yes, you are capable. Yes, you can achieve.’”
Segregation lasted in the United States from 1896 to 1954, Dickson said, but it took another 11 years for it to end in Johnson City.
“There’s just too many instances of people still persevering in spite of setbacks and shortcomings,” Dickson said, “so we really want to focus on those themes in the Langston Experience.”
Currently, the center plans to offer the tours from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays beginning in February. They will be by appointment.
The Langston Centre is also accepting applications for the Ralph E. Davis Scholars Academy.
The program is open to all students ages 15-17, but Dickson said leaders are particularly hoping to introduce kids from underserved or underrepresented backgrounds to the idea of civic engagement and servant leadership.
The center organizes the program in partnership with East Tennessee State University, which offers a detailed curriculum that focuses on these themes.
Applications are available at the Langston Centre. The deadline to apply is Jan. 11. The academy would begin after Martin Luther King Jr. Day and last through the end of the spring semester.
Students in the program meet weekly, and the classes help high schoolers learn what it means to be an agent of change, Dickson said.
This spring, the center will also offer a series of classes for adults. Those interested can call the center at 423-434-5785 for more information. The courses include:
• Basic Kiswahili, a free course designed to provide participants with basic spoken knowledge of the Kiswahili language.
• Contemporary Black Issues, a $20 course that will examine the Black American experience since 2001. The class is designed for everyone. Participants must register for this class in person at the Langston Centre.
• Andrew Johnson & American Reconstruction, a free course that will explore the social, political, economic and cultural experience of African Americans in central Appalachia during American Reconstruction and the presidency of Andrew Johnson.