Mifflin Wistar Gibbs

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Gibbs in 1902.

Mifflin Wistar Gibbs (17 April 1823 – 11 July 1915) was an African-American abolitionist and judge. Gibbs was the eldest of four siblings, including Jonathan Clarkson Gibbs, and was prominent in Reconstruction Arkansas. Mifflin was born in Philadelphia, and died at his home in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Immigration to Vancouver Island[edit]

Gibbs is well known for his role in the migration of African Americans from California to Vancouver Island, starting in 1858. He was involved in business and politics during his ten year stay in Canada.

In the 1860 Vancouver Island Legislative election the vote of the black community in the election for the Vancouver Island Legislative Assembly defeated Amor De Cosmos.[1] De Cosmos railed against the fact blacks were allowed and worked hard to ensure they would not be allowed to vote in the next election. Gibbs was part of a group of 53 blacks that became naturalized British Subjects in 1861[2] and were then allowed to vote and run for office.

Victoria City Council[edit]

He ran in the first race for a Victoria City Council seat 1862, he placed 7th in this race missing a council seat by four votes.[3] He was elected to Victoria City Council in 1867 serving till 1869.[4]

Involvement in Confederation Movement[edit]

In 1868 he was the Salt Spring Island delegate to the Yale Convention, an important step towards British Columbia joining Canada.[5]

Return to Arkansas[edit]

On his return to the United States, he became involved in the legal profession in Little Rock and held a number of judicial and government positions. He was appointed County Attorney of Pulaski County, Arkansas after passing the Arkansas bar exam in 1870.[6] He was also elected to the Office of the City Judge. He was a Republican.[7]

In 1897, he became the American consul to Madagascar. He returned to the United States in 1901 and became president of a bank located in Little Rock that was mainly an African American business.

In 1902, he purchased the property at 902 T Street, NW in Washington, D.C. for his daughter Mrs. Harriet Gibbs Marshall, who ran the Washington Conservatory of Music there, as one of the most successful women-owned businesses in the United States at the turn of the century, following in the footsteps of her father.

Another daughter, Ida Alexander Gibbs, who was educated at Oberlin College in Ohio, married William Henry Hunt who was an assistant to Mifflin Wistar Gibbs in Tamatave, Madagascar and succeeded him as American consul there.[8]


  1. ^ http://www.britishcolonist.ca/tc/1860/01/10/18600110002.pdf
  2. ^ http://www.learnquebec.ca/en/content/curriculum/social_sciences/features/missingpages/unit4/u4p79.htm
  3. ^ http://victoriavision.blogspot.ca/2012/08/victoria-incorporated-reports-from.html
  4. ^ http://www.victoria.ca/EN/main/departments/legislative-services/archives/faqs/councillors-date.html
  5. ^ History of British Columbia#Entry into Canada .281871-1900.29
  6. ^ Smith, J. Clay, Jr. (1999). Emancipation: The Making of the Black Lawyer, 1844-1944. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 333. ISBN 9780812216851. 
  7. ^ Smith, J. Clay, Jr. (1999). Emancipation: The Making of the Black Lawyer, 1844-1944. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 333. ISBN 9780812216851. 
  8. ^ Washington Post
  • Gibbs, Mifflin Wistar. Shadow and Light: An Autobiography with Reminiscences of the Last and Present Century. Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1995.
  • McGinty, Doris E. "The Washington Conservatory of Music and School of Expression," Black perspectives in music, vol 7, no. 1, spring 1979.

External links[edit]