Jonathan Clarkson Gibbs, II (1821–1874)

Jonathan Clarkson Gibbs, II was a free African American born in Philadelphia on September 28, 1821.  He was the son of Reverend Jonathan Gibbs, who died when he was still a child, and the brother of Mifflin Gibbs.  Jonathan attended Kimball Union Academy in New Hampshire, and graduated in 1848.  He then entered Dartmouth College, and became the third African American to graduate from Dartmouth;  he also became the second African American in the nation to deliver a college commencement address.  Jonathan then studied at Princeton Theological Seminary, and was ordained in 1856, becoming pastor of Liberty Street Presbyterian Church in Troy, New York.  In 1859, Jonathan also served as pastor of the First African Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia.

While in Philadelphia, Jonathan was an active abolitionist, and a key member of the local Underground Railroad. He also contributed articles to the Anglo-African Magazine, and he openly fought for the civil rights of the African American community in Philadelphia, and against the segregation of the city's rail cars.

By the end of the Civil War, Jonathan Gibbs had moved to the South in a rebuilding effort to help educate and uplift ex-slaves during Reconstruction. Gibbs arrived at New Bern, North Carolina, and then he settled in Charleston, South Carolina, where he opened a school for educating the children of freedman, which had an attendance of 1000 children and 20 teachers.  In 1867, Jonathan moved to Jacksonville, Florida where he started a private school and then moved into politics.  In 1868, Jonathan Gibbs was elected to the Florida State Constitutional Convention, where he helped to draft a constitution that directed the legislature to create a uniform system of public schools.

Jonathan C. Gibbs was nominated for Florida's seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, and lost, but he was then appointed Florida's Secretary of State by Governor Harrison Reed, serving from 1868 to 1872.  As Florida’s Secretary of State, Gibbs fought to protect African Americans in the state, and conducted widespread investigations into violence and the activities of the Ku Klux Klan.  In 1872, Jonathan was elected as a Tallahassee City Councilman, and in 1873, he was appointed Superintendent of Public Instruction. Gibbs was also commissioned as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Florida State Militia.   After, a life in service to the black community, Jonathan C. Gibbs died on August 14, 1874.

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