Jonathan Clarkson Gibbs
|Secretary of State and Superintendent of Public Instruction|
1868 to 1872, 1873 to 1874
|Preceded by||George J. Alden, Charles Beecher|
|Succeeded by||Samuel B. Mclin, William Watkin Hicks|
|Born||September 28, 1821|
|Died||August 14, 1874 52) (aged|
|Spouse(s)||Anna Amelia Harris, (divorced), and Elizabeth F. Gibbs|
Jonathan Clarkson Gibbs, II (September 28, 1821 – August 14, 1874) was a Presbyterian minister and a prominent African-American officeholder during Reconstruction. He served as the first and only black Secretary of State and Superintendent of Public Instruction of Florida, and along with Josiah Thomas Walls, U.S. Congressman from Florida, was among the most powerful black officeholders in the state during Reconstruction.
Presbyterianism is a part of the Reformed tradition within Protestantism, which traces its origins to Britain, particularly Scotland.
In Christianity, a minister is a person authorized by a church, or other religious organization, to perform functions such as teaching of beliefs; leading services such as weddings, baptisms or funerals; or otherwise providing spiritual guidance to the community. The term is taken from Latin minister, which itself was derived from minus ("less").
The Secretary of State of Florida is a constitutional officer of the state government of the U.S. state of Florida, established by the original 1838 state constitution.
Gibbs was born free in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on September 28, 1821. His father was Reverend Jonathan Gibbs I, a Methodist minister, and his mother Maria Jackson was a Baptist. Jonathan C. Gibbs II was the oldest of four children born to the couple. He grew up in Philadelphia during a time when the city was rife with anti-black and anti-abolitionist sentiments. Many white Northerners during this period practiced both white superiority and discrimination against blacks.Gibbs and his brother, Mifflin, attended the local Free School in Philadelphia.
Though not much is known about the details of his early life, Jonathan Clarkson Gibbs grew up in a Philadelphia where anti-black riots and violence were quite common.Following the death of his father in April 1831, Gibbs and his brother left the Free School to aid their ailing mother and earn a living. The young Gibbs apprenticed to a carpenter. Both brothers eventually converted to Presbyterianism. Gibbs impressed the Presbyterian assembly such that the Assembly provided financial backing for him to attend Kimball Union Academy in Meriden, New Hampshire.
Kimball Union Academy is a private boarding school located in New Hampshire. Founded in 1813, it is the 22nd oldest boarding school in the United States. The academy's mission is to "discover with each student the right path to academic mastery, to creativity, and to responsibility." It is located in the upper Connecticut River Valley village of Meriden, New Hampshire.
Meriden is an unincorporated community in the eastern part of the town of Plainfield in Sullivan County, New Hampshire, United States. Meriden is home to Kimball Union Academy, a private boarding school. New Hampshire Route 120 passes through the village, leading north to Lebanon and south to Claremont.
New Hampshire is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States. It is bordered by Massachusetts to the south, Vermont to the west, Maine and the Atlantic Ocean to the east, and the Canadian province of Quebec to the north. New Hampshire is the 5th smallest by area and the 10th least populous of the 50 states. Concord is the state capital, while Manchester is the largest city in the state. It has no general sales tax, nor is personal income taxed at either the state or local level. The New Hampshire primary is the first primary in the U.S. presidential election cycle. Its license plates carry the state motto, "Live Free or Die". The state's nickname, "The Granite State", refers to its extensive granite formations and quarries.
Gibbs attended Kimball Union Academy (KUA) at Meriden, New Hampshire, and graduated in 1848. At the time, the academy was under the guidance of an abolitionist principal, Cyrus Smith Richards, who had earlier allowed Augustus Washington (who would also attend Dartmouth) to study at the academy. Washington is best known for a famous daguerreotype of John Brown.At KUA, Gibbs became acquainted with Charles Barrett, a native of Grafton, Vermont, who would become one of his closest friends. The two went on to Dartmouth College, and later, Barrett returned to his native Vermont and served in politics.
Augustus Washington was an American photographer and daguerreotypist. He was born in New Jersey as a free person of color and immigrated to Liberia in 1852. He is one of the few African-American daguerreotypists whose career has been documented.
John Brown was an American abolitionist. Brown advocated the use of armed insurrection to overthrow the institution of slavery in the United States. He first gained attention when he led small groups of volunteers during the Bleeding Kansas crisis of 1856. He was dissatisfied with the pacifism of the organized abolitionist movement: "These men are all talk. What we need is action—action!" In May 1856, Brown and his supporters killed five supporters of slavery in the Pottawatomie massacre, which responded to the sacking of Lawrence by pro-slavery forces. Brown then commanded anti-slavery forces at the Battle of Black Jack and the Battle of Osawatomie.
Grafton is a town in Windham County, Vermont, United States. The population was 679 at the 2010 census.
While Gibbs was a student, Dartmouth was under the presidency of pro-slavery Nathan Lord. Lord was originally an anti-slavery advocate who had voted for the Liberty Party and had written editorials in The Liberator . His sudden conversion was due to his conservative brand of Calvinism, he felt that reformers may have been going too far in their zeal against slavery. Despite the president's views regarding slavery, which stemmed in large part from his belief that the institution was predicated on sin, Lord permitted several African Americans to attend the college. Lord believed that any group of people who sinned against God could be enslaved (including whites).
Nathan Lord was a U.S. Congregational clergyman and educator.
While at the college, Gibbs was influenced by three professors who would affect his thinking as a missionary, educator and politician.He was a member of the abolitionist movement while a college student, and participated in several conventions, appearing by name in The Liberator.
He was the third African American to graduate from Dartmouth College. Following John Brown Russwurm, Gibbs became the second black man in the nation to deliver a commencement address at a college.
Following his graduation in 1852, Gibbs studied at Princeton Theological Seminary from 1853 to 1854 but did not graduate due to financial constraints.At the seminary, Gibbs studied under Charles Hodge, a pro-slavery advocate. Hodge, a Presbyterian minister, espoused the belief that, "slavery as such was not condemned by Scripture but that the way it was practiced in the South perpetuated great evil." Unlike Nathan Lord, Hodge did support the war effort and President Abraham Lincoln. Though Gibbs was unable to graduate from the seminary, he was ordained in 1856. He was called as a pastor of Liberty Street Presbyterian Church in Troy, New York, where Henry Highland Garnet had been pastor. Gibbs invited the pro-slavery president of Dartmouth College, Nathan Lord, to give the ordination sermon. He "begged Dr. Lord as a special favor to preach his ordination sermon, giving as a reason that his college was the only (one) which would endure his presence." Lord delivered the sermon as a result of the absence of other ministers.
Gibbs, by now a young minister, married Anna Amelia Harris, the daughter of a well-to-do black New York merchant and his wife. The couple had three children: Thomas Van Renssalaer Gibbs, Julia Pennington Gibbs, and Josephine Haywood Gibbs.
Following his ordination, Gibbs became active in the abolitionist movement. He attended a series of black conventions where he worked with Frederick Douglass and served on committees. He gradually became known nationally for his work in the movement. Gibbs was featured in anti-slavery publications including The Liberator and The National Anti-Slavery Standard. His rising fame was indicative of Gibbs' own ambitions as well his skills as an orator and rising abolitionist minister.His growing involvement in New York's abolitionist movement separated him from his family. In part due to his extensive absences from home and his parish duties, Gibbs became increasingly alienated from his wife. Anna was accustomed to living standards that a young pastor could not afford. The tension between husband and wife prompted Gibbs to consider leaving the United States for Africa to work as a missionary. However, he was persuaded by his congregation to abandon these plans. The marital discord eventually led to lengthy and bitter divorce proceedings, which lasted until 1862. Not long afterward, Gibbs returned to his native Philadelphia where he continued work in the abolitionist movement.
Gibbs served as pastor of the First African Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia from 1859 to 1865. He became active in the abolitionist movement, "a key figure in the local underground railroad and contributed articles to the Anglo-African Magazine."
Following President Abraham Lincoln's announcement of the Emancipation Proclamation, Gibbs delivered a sermon titled "Freedom's Joyful Day," emphasizing that whites should crush their prejudices and that blacks should be allowed to fight in the Civil War. Gibbs noted that, "We, the colored men of the North, put the laboring oar in your hand; it is for white men to show that they are equal to the demands of these times, by putting away their stupid prejudices."He touched upon the need for blacks to fight by addressing white concerns and prejudices stating unequivocally that:
Many persons are asking, Will black men fight? That is not what they mean. The question they are asking is simply this: Have white men of the North the same moral courage, the pluck, the grit, to lay down their foolish prejudice against the colored man and place him in a position where he can bear his full share of the toils and dangers of this war?
Along with William Still, Gibbs fought for equal accommodations and transportation in Philadelphia, decrying segregation of the city's rail cars. In a blunt article published in December 1864 in the National Anti-Slavery Standard, Still and Gibbs asked, "Why, then, should the fear exist that the very people who are meeting with colored people in various other directions without insulting them, should instantly become so intolerably incensed as to indicate a terrible aspect in this particular?"They wrote further that:
It is well known that through the efforts of the Supervisory Committee of this city ten or eleven regiments of colored men have been raised for the United States service, and not a few of these brave men have already won imperishable honor on the battle-field. Nevertheless, thrice the number that have been thus raised for the defence of the country are daily and hourly compelled to endure all the outrages and inconveniences consequent upon rules so severe and inexorable as those which have hitherto governed the roads of Philadelphia.
Gibbs' efforts in the movement to abolish slavery helped both free blacks and their enslaved brethren. As the Civil War drew to a close, Gibbs left Philadelphia, and journeyed to the South to help rebuild the former Confederate states and to educate the ex-slaves and poor whites who were left destitute in the wake of the bloody ravages of war.
On December 18, 1864, Gibbs announced his departure from the First African Presbyterian Church. One factor was "a bitter divorce" which "scandalized his Philadelphia congregation".He "was invited to go South for several months to look to the needs of Freedmen." His endeavor expanded into a project of several years, as Gibbs labored alongside other missionaries as part of the American Home Missionary Society. Gibbs arrived at New Bern, North Carolina, where he wrote a letter published in The Christian Recorder. He described postwar conditions: "The destitution and suffering of this people extended my wildest dream; old men and women bending to the ground, heads white with the frosts and hardships of many winters, as well as the innocent babe of a few weeks, contribute to make up this scene of misery." Gibbs eventually settled in Charleston, South Carolina, where he became established in a local church and opened a school for freedmen.
Freedmen faced uncertainty as well as great opportunities. As early as 1866 the need for missionary activities among the freedmen was mentioned prominently in The First Annual Report of the General Assembly's Committee on Freedmen of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. The Report stated, "The condition of the freedmen, their native peculiarities, and the various influences to which they are subjected, have much to do in determining the success of missions, and the plan of the church's operation for their benefit."This same report also illuminated the perspective of Northern missionaries in dealing with the situation, saying that newly freed blacks are
passing through 'a howling wilderness' of social, political, and religious problems, as striking and peculiar as those found by the Israelites in their journey from the 'house of bondage' to the land of their fathers. And all these problems impinge upon the work of their religious education, in every branch of it, either directly or remotely.
Missionary activity in the South was not a new occurrence. The Great Awakening had been a period when many missionaries evangelized in the region. In addition, contraband camps had been set up near many forts, and some missionaries lived and worked among them. Historian Steven Hahn has noted that:
The missionaries and reformers, charged as many were with evangelical fervor, sought not only to strike fatal blows against the institution of slavery but also to reshape the character and morals of the institutions direct victims. Assuming, for the most part, that the slaves had emerged from an experience of degradation and cultural barbarism, they expected to teach essential lessons in the proper conduct of faith, family, health, and livelihood as well as in the rudiments of reading and writing.
The established missionary work among freed blacks in the South was augmented by activities such as those o Gibbs. He believed in the power of education and the connection (expressed in the 1866 report) between religious duties and the task of uplifting nearly four million freedmen. In a letter to his old friend, Charles Barrett of Vermont, Gibbs proudly stated that he "had one school that daily average in Charleston, 1000, children, and some 20 teachers."
During his time in South Carolina, Gibbs also became involved in Republican political activities during Reconstruction. Gibbs participated in a meeting of black delegates who drafted a petition demanding that the educated of both races be allowed to vote, suggesting he may have had some elitism. The petition also said, "we do ask that if the ignorant white man is allowed to vote, that the ignorant colored man shall be allowed to vote also."Gibbs noted that, "If we can secure, for the next ten years, three clean shirts a week, a tooth brush, and spelling-book to every Freedman in South Carolina, I will go bail (a thing I seldom do) for the next hundred years, that we will have no more slavery, and both whites and blacks will be happier and better friends."
During this period, Gibbs met and married his second wife, Elizabeth. They had at least once child, who died in infancy. Gibbs "remained [in Charleston] but a short time not finding things to his liking. He proceeded to Jacksonville, Florida and there opened an Academy for youth of that city."
Gibbs moved to Florida in 1867 where he started a private school in Jacksonville. He rapidly shifted from missionary work to political involvement in Reconstruction Florida. Religion and politics went hand-in-hand for black officeholders in this period. Another prominent black officeholder, Charles H. Pearce, remarked that, "A man in this State, cannot do his whole duty as a minister except he looks out for the political interests of his people."
Gibbs was elected to the State Constitutional Convention of 1868. He formed part of the radical Mule Team faction within the convention that initially gained control of the convention, only to be thwarted by more moderate and conservative delegates led by Harrison Reed and Ossian Bingley Hart.Canter Brown, Jr. wrote of the resulting constitution that:
While it established the state's most liberal charter to that date, it incorporated important restrictions on black political power. It permitted most former Rebels to vote, at the same time specifying a legislative apportionment plan that discriminated again black-majority counties in favor of sparsely populated white counties. The drafters retained one item especially important to black leaders. The constitution directed the legislature to create a uniform system of public schools.
The Mule Team nominated its own slate of candidates, opposing the more conservative faction of Republicans that nominated Gibbs for Florida's seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Ultimately, the Mule Team coalition fractured in the wake of the successful election of a moderate Republican administration and Congressional approval of the 1868 Constitution.
Though Gibbs did not win the election to Congress, he was appointed Florida's Secretary of State, serving from 1868 to 1872, by Wisconsin-born Republican governor, Harrison Reed. Gibbs wielded considerable power and responsibility during his four years as Secretary of State. In a letter to his close friend, Charles Barrett, Gibbs remarked that, "In 1868 I was appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate, Secretary of State of Florida at a salary of $3000, per year for four years, and stand second man in the government of this State today."Gibbs' power and influence contradicts some observations made by historians of this period. Eric Foner noted that, "During Reconstruction more blacks served in the essentially ceremonial office of secretary of state than any other post, and by and large, the most important political decisions in every state were made by whites." However, Article VIII of the Constitution states that, "The Superintendent of Public Instruction, Secretary of State, and Attorney General shall constitute a body corporate, to be known as the Board of Education of Florida. The Superintendent of Public Instruction shall be president thereof. The duties of the Board of Education shall be prescribed by the Legislature." Gibbs also was proactive as Secretary of State, conducting extensive investigations into violence and fraud (including investigations into the activities of the Ku Klux Klan), and he also served on the Board of Canvassers, testifying on behalf of Josiah Thomas Walls.
He served as Superintendent of Public Instruction from 1872 to 1874. 103 Gibbs was also commissioned as a lieutenant colonel in the Florida State Militia. Gibbs was also elected as a Tallahassee City Councilman in 1872. Gibbs was responsible for introducing legislation creating the State Normal College for Colored Students, forerunner of Florida A&M University.:
Gibbs died on August 14, 1874, in Tallahassee, Florida, reportedly of apoplexy (stroke), "ostensibly from eating too heavy a dinner. It was rumored that he had been poisoned." 103:
He was the brother of prominent Arkansas Reconstruction judge Mifflin Wistar Gibbs, and the father of Thomas Van Renssalaer Gibbs, a delegate to the 1886 Florida Constitutional Convention, and a member of the Florida state legislature.
The Underground Railroad was a network of secret routes and safe houses established in the United States during the early to mid-1800s, and used by African-American slaves to escape into free states, Canada and Nova Scotia with the aid of abolitionists and allies who were sympathetic to their cause. The term is also applied to the abolitionists, both black and white, free and enslaved, who aided the fugitives. Various other routes led to Mexico or overseas. An earlier escape route running south toward Florida, then a Spanish possession, existed from the late 17th century until Florida became a United States territory in 1821. However, the network now generally known as the Underground Railroad was formed in the late 1700s, and it ran north to the free states and Canada, and reached its height between 1850 and 1860. One estimate suggests that by 1850, 100,000 slaves had escaped via the "Railroad".
The Reconstruction era was the period from 1863 to 1877 in American history. It was a significant chapter in the history of American civil rights.
The Radical Republicans were a faction of American politicians within the Republican Party of the United States from around 1854 until the end of Reconstruction in 1877. They called themselves "Radicals", with a goal of immediate, complete, permanent eradication of slavery, without compromise. They were opposed during the War by the moderate Republicans, by the conservative Republicans, and by the pro-slavery and anti-Reconstruction Democratic Party as well as by conservatives in the South and liberals in the North during Reconstruction. Radicals led efforts after the war to establish civil rights for former slaves and fully implement emancipation. After weaker measures in 1866 resulted in violence against former slaves in the rebel states, Radicals pushed the Fourteenth Amendment and statutory protections through Congress. They disfavored allowing ex-Confederates officers to retake political power in the South, and emphasized equality, civil rights and voting rights for the "freedpeople", i.e. people who had been enslaved by state slavery laws within the United States.
Samuel Eli Cornish was an American Presbyterian minister, abolitionist, publisher, and journalist. He was a leader in New York City's small free black community, where he organized the first congregation of black Presbyterians in New York. In 1827 he became one of two editors of the newly founded Freedom's Journal, the first black newspaper in the United States. In 1833 he was a founding member of the interracial American Anti-Slavery Society.
The Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, usually referred to as simply the Freedmen's Bureau, was an agency of the United States Department of War to "direct such issues of provisions, clothing, and fuel, as he may deem needful for the immediate and temporary shelter and supply of destitute and suffering refugees and freedmen and their wives and children."
In the history of the United States, carpetbagger was a derogatory term applied by former Confederates to any person from the Northern United States who came to the Southern states after the American Civil War; they were perceived as exploiting the local populace. The term broadly included both individuals who sought to promote Republican politics, and those individuals who saw business and political opportunities because of the chaotic state of the local economies following the war. In practice, the term carpetbagger was often applied to any Northerner who was present in the South during the Reconstruction Era (1863–1877). The term is closely associated with "scalawag", a similarly pejorative word used to describe native White southerners who supported the Republican Party-led Reconstruction.
Martin Robison Delany was an African-American abolitionist, journalist, physician, soldier and writer, and arguably the first proponent of black nationalism. Delany is credited with the Pan-African slogan of "Africa for Africans."
Harrison Reed was an American editor and politician who had most of his political career in Florida. He was elected in 1868 as the ninth Governor of Florida, serving until 1873 during the Reconstruction era. Born in Littleton, Massachusetts, he moved as a youth with his family to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he had a grocery store and started farming. He also owned and edited the Milwaukee Sentinel for several years.
The Black Codes were laws passed by Southern states in 1865 and 1866 in the United States after the American Civil War with the intent and the effect of restricting African Americans' freedom, and of compelling them to work in a labor economy based on low wages or debt. Black Codes were part of a larger pattern of Southern whites, who were trying to suppress the new freedom of emancipated African-American slaves, the freedmen. Black codes were essentially replacements for slave codes in those states. Before the war in states that prohibited slavery, some Black Codes were also enacted. Northern states such as Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and New York enacted Black Codes to discourage free blacks from residing in those states and denying them equal rights, including the right to vote, the right to public education, and the right to equal treatment under the law. Some of these northern black codes were repealed around the same time that the Civil War ended and slavery was abolished.
In United States history, the Redeemers were a political coalition in the Southern United States during the Reconstruction Era that followed the Civil War. Redeemers were the Southern wing of the Bourbon Democrats, the conservative, pro-business faction in the Democratic Party. They sought to regain their political power and enforce white supremacy. Their policy of Redemption was intended to oust the Radical Republicans, a coalition of freedmen, "carpetbaggers", and "scalawags". They generally were led by the rich former planters, businessmen, and professionals, and they dominated Southern politics in most areas from the 1870s to 1910.
The Coushatta massacre (1874) was the result of an attack by the White League, a paramilitary organization composed of white Southern Democrats, on Republican officeholders and freedmen in Coushatta, the parish seat of Red River Parish, Louisiana. They assassinated six white Republicans and five to 20 freedmen who were witnesses.
James Thomas Rapier was an African-American politician from Alabama during the Reconstruction Era. He served as a United States Representative from Alabama, for one term from 1873 until 1875. Born free in Alabama, he received his higher education and law degree in Scotland and Canada before being admitted to the bar in Tennessee.
The American Missionary Association (AMA) was a Protestant-based abolitionist group founded on September 3, 1846, in Albany, New York. The main purpose of the organization was abolition of slavery, education of African Americans, promotion of racial equality, and spreading Christian values. Its members and leaders were of both races; The Association was chiefly sponsored by the Congregationalist churches in New England. Starting in 1861, it opened camps in the South for former slaves. It played a major role during the Reconstruction Era in promoting education for blacks in the South by establishing numerous schools and colleges, as well as paying for teachers.
Thomas Van Renssalaer Gibbs (1855–1898) was nominated to West Point by black Representative Josiah Walls. He was a politician and a member of the 1885 Florida Constitutional Convention. He was elected to the Florida House of Representatives.
A freedmen's town, in the United States, refers to an African-American municipality, communities built by freedmen, former slaves who were emancipated during and after the American Civil War. These towns emerged in a number of states, most notably in Texas.
This is a selected bibliography of the main scholarly books and articles of Reconstruction, the period after the American Civil War, 1863–1877.
The civil rights movement (1865–1896) aimed to eliminate racial discrimination against African Americans, improve their educational and employment opportunities, and establish their electoral power, just after the abolition of slavery in the United States. The period from 1865 to 1895 saw a tremendous change in the fortunes of the black community following the elimination of slavery in the South.
Charles H. Pearce (1817–1887) was an African-American politician and AME minister in Florida from 1865 until his death. As a missionary, he helped bring the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church to Florida and worked to build its congregation during and after the Reconstruction Era. It was the first independent black denomination in the United States. He had been born into slavery in Maryland and, after buying his freedom, had moved North to New Haven, Connecticut, where he was ordained, and later to Canada, where he served as a preacher and became a British citizen.
Sara Griffith Stanley Woodward was an African-American abolitionist, missionary teacher, and published author. Sara, sometimes listed as "Sarah", came from a biracial family, of which both black and white sides owned slaves. Despite this fact, she spent most of her working life to further the cause of freedom and civil rights for African Americans. Her family's wealth and affluence enabled her to obtain a diploma in "Ladies Courses" from Oberlin College, one of the first colleges in the United States to admit African Americans beginning in 1837. She wrote and published several abolitionist works in journal magazines, but her most famous writing was an address on behalf of the Delaware Ladies' Antislavery Society given at the State Convention of Colored Men during the 1856 election year. After the Civil War, she spent several years working as a teacher for the American Missionary Association, working in the North and in the South educating African-American children.
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George J. Alden
| Secretary of State of Florida |
Samuel B. Mclin