Know Our Names: The Story of Jonathan C. Gibbs

Ronnesha Rodgers

<i> Jonathan C. Gibbs </i>
Jonathan C. Gibbs

As the first African-American to become Florida’s secretary of state, Jonathan C. Gibbs also served as a minister. Born in 1827, his parents were both free people. He earned a degree from Dartmouth College, and also studied at Princeton Theological Seminary. Gibbs traveled to North Carolina after the Civil War, where he created a school for slaves who had been freed. He would then move farther south to Florida to continue teaching freed slaves.

Appointed Secretary of State in Florida in 1868, Gibbs, the only African-American in the cabinet, served in the position from 1869 to 1872. He would later become the state superintendent of public instruction, where he worked to help African-American receive education. When at home, Gibbs would sleep in the attic of the house because of constant threats by the Ku Klux Klan. After giving a long speech in 1874, Gibbs went home for dinner and died suddenly.