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Gibbs, Jonathan C. (1827–14 August 1874), clergyman, educator, and politician, was born free in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Maria Jackson and Jonathan C. Gibbs, a Methodist minister. He learned carpentry as a youth and followed that trade until the Presbyterian Assembly helped him enroll at Dartmouth College in 1848. Gibbs, who was one of only two black students at Dartmouth, claimed that he had been rejected by eighteen colleges before being accepted. After graduating from Dartmouth in 1852 he attended the Princeton Theological Seminary. He was ordained as a Presbyterian minister and pastored churches in Troy, New York, and in Philadelphia. While in New York Gibbs campaigned for the extension of black suffrage in the state. When he moved to Philadelphia in 1859 he became prominent in the local Underground Railroad. During the Civil War he joined the freedmen’s relief efforts, campaigned against segregated city streetcars, encouraged black enlistments in the army, served as vice president of the Pennsylvania State Equal Rights League, and continued his participation in the black convention movement. He represented Philadelphia at the black national convention in Syracuse in 1864, which severely criticized the Republican party for its failure to endorse black suffrage and which gave birth to the National Equal Rights League....


John Witherspoon. Lithograph after a painting by Charles Willson Peale, c. 1838–1843. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-104656).


Witherspoon, John (05 February 1723–15 November 1794), Presbyterian minister, college president, and American patriot, was born in the village of Gifford in the parish of Yester, Scotland, eighteen miles east of Edinburgh Castle, the son of James Witherspoon, a minister of the Church of Scotland, and Anne (or Anna) Walker. At home Witherspoon was instructed in the New Testament and the hymns of Isaac Watts and early developed a facility for rapid, accurate memorization. He entered the University of Edinburgh when only thirteen and received a master of arts in February 1739. He then studied theology, was licensed to preach on 6 September 1743, and in January 1745 was called as minister of the Church of Scotland parish in Beith, Ayrshire. The next year he helped raise troops to fight against Charles Stuart, the Young Pretender, but rebel forces captured him when he went to observe the battle of Falkirk. He underwent a brief but harsh imprisonment in Castle Doune near Stirling that permanently damaged his nervous system. In 1748 he married Elizabeth Montgomery; they had ten children, five of whom died during childhood....