But even though the school closed in 1965 after serving Johnson City’s black students for 72 years, Langston High School “never lost its soul.”
“We lost a lot — we lost the building, but we didn’t lose the soul of the building,” Young, chairman of the Langston Education and Arts Development group, said. “It was not only a school, it was a family.
“Sometimes parts of the house have to be taken down, but the structure is still strong, the foundation is still strong,” Young said.
And though it’s no longer a school, the new Langston Community Centre will remain an educational facility and anchor in the community — something that was readily apparent during Sunday’s grand opening as hundreds gathered inside the Langston’s renovated gymnasium.
In some respects, it was like the Langston never left.
“To see it like it is now gives me a joyous feeling, it gives me pride,” said former student Mary Haney. “I think it’s terrific and historic. I’m glad to see this.”
Haney played in Langston’s band, playing the school’s anthem more times than she can count, so when the ceremony ended with dozens of attendees singing the school anthem it brought back a lot of memories for Haney.
“I loved everything,” Haney said. “God bless Langston.”
Callie Redd, one of the last surviving Langston High School faculty members, said hearing the Langston anthem boom through the gymnasium for the first time in more than 50 years was “great.”
“I don’t sing well, so I had to hum,” Redd joked, “but it sounds so good.
“I just think it was wonderful,” Redd said.
The new community center will feature programming focused on community arts, education and leadership, with a computer lab, recording studio, media lab and learning spaces for children, teens and adults.
“I’m just so happy that the public really sees the worth of this facility and what it can be,” Director Adam Dickson said. “It’s very exciting, very rewarding and very fulfilling.”
And for Dickson, re-opening the center represents a healing moment for the city’s black community.
“We can take buildings that were built for the purpose of segregation, that intent of Jim Crow (laws), and we repurpose those buildings,” Dickson said. “That’s the reason you saw this crowd today, this is a healing moment.
“That’s the way we keep the legacy of Langston alive: We respect the past, but we have a bold and progressive vision for the future,” Dickson said.
Going forward, Dickson hopes to stay true to the motto of the old Langston High School: Enter to learn, depart to serve.
And, as the Langston anthem proudly says, “long may we live that we may see the light, long may it be our guide at night. May we all forever be, true sons and daughters of Langston.”