Jonathan Clarkson Gibbs
|Secretary of State and Superintendent of Public Instruction|
1868 to 1872, 1873 to 1874
|Governor|| Harrison Reed |
Ossian B. Hart
|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|
|Relatives||Brother, Mifflin Wistar Gibbs; Niece, Ida Alexander Gibbs; Niece, Harriet Gibbs Marshall; Nephew-in-law, William Henry Hunt (diplomat)|
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.
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 Wistar Gibbs, 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.
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.
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).
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 Reconstruction era was the period in American history which lasted from 1863 to 1877. It was a significant chapter in the history of American civil rights.
Henry Highland Garnet was an African-American abolitionist, minister, educator and orator. Having escaped with his family as a child from slavery in Maryland, he grew up in New York City. He was educated at the African Free School and other institutions, and became an advocate of militant abolitionism. He became a minister and based his drive for abolitionism in religion.
The Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, usually referred to as simply the Freedmen's Bureau, was a U.S. government agency from 1865 to 1872, after the Civil War, to direct "provisions, clothing, and fuel ... 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.
Forty acres and a mule is part of Special Field Orders No. 15, a post-Civil War promise proclaimed by Union General William Tecumseh Sherman on January 16, 1865, to allot family units, including freed people, a plot of land no larger than 40 acres (16 ha). Sherman later ordered the army to lend mules for the agrarian reform effort. The field orders followed a series of conversations between Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton and Radical Republican abolitionists Charles Sumner and Thaddeus Stevens following disruptions to the institution of slavery provoked by the American Civil War. Many freed people believed, after being told by various political figures, that they had a right to own the land they had been forced to work as slaves, and were eager to control their own property. Freed people widely expected to legally claim 40 acres of land and a mule after the end of the war. Some freedmen took advantage of the order and took initiatives to acquire land plots along a strip of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida coasts. However, Lincoln's successor, president Andrew Johnson explicitly reversed and annulled proclamations such as Special Field Orders No. 15 and the Freedmen's Bureau bills.
Martin Robinson 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."
The Black Codes, sometimes called Black Laws, were laws governing the conduct of African Americans. The best known of them were passed in 1865 and 1866 by Southern states, after the American Civil War, in order to restrict African Americans' freedom, and to compel them to work for low wages. However, Black Codes existed before the Civil War, and many Northern states had them. In 1832, James Kent wrote that "in most of the United States, there is a distinction in respect to political privileges, between free white persons and free coloured persons of African blood; and in no part of the country do the latter, in point of fact, participate equally with the whites, in the exercise of civil and political rights."
Eric Foner is an American historian. He writes extensively on American political history, the history of freedom, the early history of the Republican Party, African-American biography, Reconstruction, and historiography, and has been a member of the faculty at the Columbia University Department of History since 1982. He is the author of several popular textbooks. According to the Open Syllabus Project, Foner is the most frequently cited author on college syllabi for history courses.
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.
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.
Archibald Henry Grimké was an American lawyer, intellectual, journalist, diplomat and community leader in the 19th and early 20th centuries. He graduated from freedmen's schools, Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, and Harvard Law School and served as American Consul to the Dominican Republic from 1894 to 1898. He was an activist for rights for blacks, working in Boston and Washington, D.C. He was a national vice-president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), as well as president of its Washington, D.C., branch.
Thomas Van Renssalaer Gibbs (1855–1898) was a member of the 1885 Florida Constitutional Convention, served in the Florida House of Representatives, and was a school administrator. He was nominated to West Point by Representative Josiah Walls, who was also African American.
In the United States, a freedmen's town was an African-American municipality or community 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 Texas. They are also known as freedom colonies, from the title of a book by Sitton and Conrad.
Lewis Tappan was a New York abolitionist who worked to achieve freedom for the enslaved Africans aboard the Amistad. Tappan was also among the founders of the American Missionary Association in 1846, which began more than 100 anti-slavery Congregational churches throughout the Midwest, and after the American Civil War, founded numerous schools and colleges to aid in the education of freedmen.
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.
George Thompson Ruby (1841-1882) was a prominent black Republican leader in Reconstruction-era Texas. Born in New York and raised in Portland, Maine, he worked in Boston and Haiti before starting teaching in New Orleans, Louisiana before the end of the American Civil War.
Charles H. Pearce (1817–1887) was a politician and African Methodist Episcopal (AME) minister in Florida from 1865 until his death. As an African American missionary, he helped bring the 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. Pearce was born into slavery in Maryland and bought his freedom then 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. In 1868 Pearce was elected as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1868 of Florida. Later that year he was elected to the state legislature from Leon County, Florida. He served numerous terms in the legislature, working to gain support for public education for all Floridians.
Published Sources (Primary and Secondary):
Unpublished Sources (Primary and Secondary):
Internet Sources (Primary and Secondary):
George J. Alden
| Secretary of State of Florida |
Samuel B. Mclin