Edwin McCabe, prominent ‘exoduster’ and founder of Langston University

Herb Boyd | 6/6/2019, 12:33 p.m.

Evident in this statement, and certainly clear to his adversaries, was McCabe’s gubernatorial aspirations should Oklahoma gain statehood. Accusations were flung far and wide that he was fleecing Black settlers, though he was never directly charged or convicted of wrongdoing. But what was unmistakably certain, he had no friends among white Republicans. A turning point occurred in 1892 when McCabe sought to make a speech at the Republican county convention advocating the secession of African-Americans from the party. When his request was rejected, McCabe, along with a number of African-American supporters, leaped on the stage and continued to harangue the white Republicans. This precipitated a melee that didn’t end until the sheriff and his deputies arrived, attacking Blacks with clubs and other weapons.

Six months later, African-Americans bolting from the party appeared to be complete. Having been manipulated by the white Republicans for their political purposes without granting Blacks full citizenship in the region, many of them began to relocate. McCabe departed for Washington, D.C. and in 1894 accepted an appointment as register of deeds for the District of Columbia. Three years later he returned to Oklahoma and became the deputy auditor of Oklahoma Territory, a post he would hold until statehood arrived in 1907.

By this time, with Blacks having lost their fight against statehood and with segregation the state law, McCabe had practically completed his withdrawal from public life. According to several sources, he was not mentioned in various functions conducted at Langston University, which seems odd since it was he who had set aside the 40 acres in 1897 for the land grant college that became Langston University by 1941. He acquired some notice in 1908 when he fought against the enactment of laws that in effect assured the continuance of Jim Crow statutes in the state.

The fight against segregation had a devastating impact on McCabe, both politically and financially since he had mortgaged his home to pay the legal fees, only to have segregation upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1914. Later, there would be a number of preeminent lawsuits filed by Black Oklahomans to strike down the invidious illegalities.

Of course, McCabe would not live to see any of these victories. He died in Chicago in 1920 and is buried in Topeka, Kansas.