Black Educator Hall Of Fame Member, Jonathan Clarkson Gibbs II

E’ry day this month, the Center for Black Educator Development, in partnership with, will highlight a Black Educator Hall of Famer.

But, don’t forget, e’ry month is Black History Month. February is just the Blackest.

Today, our featured Black Educator is Jonathan Clarkson Gibbs II.

Jonathan C. Gibbs II was born a free man on September 28, 1821, in Philadelphia, PA. He was one of six children born to his parents (three died in childhood. While the city of Philadelphia was rife with anti-Black violence, Gibbs excelled as a young student, attending a local free school in the city. However, he and his brother would leave to help their mother when their father, Jonathan Clarkson Gibbs I, died unexpectedly.

At the age of sixteen, Gibbs apprenticed as a carpenter. Still, he caught the attention of members of his Presbyterian congregation, who paid for him to attend Kimball Union Academy at Hanover, New Hampshire, where he finished the course in 1848. Gibbs attended and graduated from Dartmouth (1852), where he was the first Black person to graduate. He then studied at Princeton Theological Seminary. Upon completing his studies, he served in various pastoral roles, including pastoring a church in Troy, New York and the First African Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia in 1860.

As a minister, Gibbs was also a political activist on behalf of African Americans. While serving in New York, Gibbs aided with the Underground Railroad, campaigned to expand Black male suffrage in New York, joined the freedmen’s relief efforts, and fought segregation on New York City streetcars. In Philadelphia, Gibbs also served as vice president of the Pennsylvania State Equal Rights League and supported Black enlistment into the Union Army. His speech, A Day to Celebrate Emancipation, encouraged African Americans that a new day was coming in the United States while inspiring Black people to join the war effort, exalting heroes of the past such as Crispus Attucks.

Gibbs, however, left Philadelphia behind when called by the Freedmen’s Missionary Society to South Carolina to establish churches and schools in 1866. From South Carolina, Gibbs journeyed to Florida in 1868 where his impact would be most felt. Upon arrival, Gibbs, according to Carter G. Woodson, “into Florida by 1868 and there faced the urgent demand to supply that leadership for which he was eminently qualified.” Gibbs became a member of the Republican Party, was elected to the state’s Constitutional Convention, served as Secretary of State for Florida from 1868 to 1872, and was lieutenant colonel in the Florida State Militia.

From there, Gibbs was appointed Superintendent of Public Education in 1872. His Dartmouth and Princeton education and his stellar reputation amongst Florida state leadership made him perfect to lead education throughout the state. According to

In that office, Gibbs supervised every county’s standard of education and established uniform textbooks throughout the state.  Though the standards for education had improved throughout Florida, he called racial segregation in the schools, which was also mandated by the state legislature, divisive for the overall advancement of education.”

Sadly, Gibbs passed away due to a hemorrhage or stroke in 1874. His death came as a surprise. Under Gibbs’ tenure, state school enrollment tripled. W.E.B. DuBois said of Gibbs, “He virtually established the public schools of the state as an orderly system.”

Jonathan C. Gibbs; a member of the Black Educator Hall of Fame.

For more information on Jonathan C. Gibbs, visit the following site.


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