John Wesley Gilbert

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John Wesley Gilbert
John Wesley Gilbert.jpg
Born July 6, 1864
Hephzibah, Georgia
Died November , 19 1923
Education A.B, A.M, Brown University
Occupation Professor at Paine College, President of Miles College, Archaeologist
Spouse(s) Osceola Pleasant Gilbert (married 1889[1])
Children 4

John Wesley Gilbert (July 6, 1864 – November 18, 1923[2]) was the first African-American archaeologist, the first graduate of Paine College, the first African-American professor of that school, and the first African-American to receive a master's degree from Brown University.[3][4]

Early life[edit]

Born to slaves in Hephzibah, Georgia on July 6, 1864,[1] Gilbert split time between grammar school and doing manual labor.[5] After finishing public school, he enrolled in the Atlanta Baptist Seminary.[1] In 1884, he enrolled in the newly opened Paine Institute (later known as Paine College).[1] In 1886, he was given financial assistance in order to transfer into the junior class of Brown University.[6]

Student and educator[edit]

While at Brown, he received a scholarship to attend the American School of Classics in Athens, Greece.[7] He was the first African American to attend that school, and remained the only one to have through 1901.[5] During his time, he was bestowed an award for "excellence" in Greek.[5] He was there from 1890-1891 and conducted archaeological excavations on Eretria with Professor John Pickard. After his work there, he produced the first map of Ancient Eretria.[1]

He received his bachelor's degree from Brown in 1888.[8] In 1891, he became the first African American to receive a master's degree from Brown after the completion of this thesis, "The Demes of Attica."[1][9] In 1891, he returned to Augusta, Georgia and began to teach the Greek language and English at his former school, Paine College. In 1913, he was appointed the president of Miles College. He served in that post for one year before returning to Paine College.[7][10] He died on November 19, 1923.[10]

Influence and recognition[edit]

He is said to have influenced another prominent African American from Augusta, John Hope, the first black president of Morehouse College and one of the founding members of the Niagara Movement.[11]

In 1941, the city of Augusta built a low-income housing complex across the street from Paine College.[4] In honor of Gilbert, the complex was named Gilbert Manor. The housing was closed in 2008 in order to make room for expansion of the Medical College of Georgia.[12]


  1. ^ a b c d e f D. W. Culp (ed)Twentieth Century Negro Literature, Or, A Cyclopedia of Thought on the Vital Topics Relating to the American Negro J. L. NICHOLS & CO., 1902, pp 190. Released as an ebook on July 6, 2006 EBook #18772 by The Project Gutenberg
  2. ^ Colclough, Joseph C. (1925). The Spirit of John Wesley Gilbert. Nashville, TN: Cokesbury Press. p. 101. 
  3. ^ Gilbert-Lambuth Memorial Chapel, Paine College
  4. ^ a b Johnny Edwards "MCG plans memorial to Gilbert Manor namesake", Augusta Chronicle, January 29, 2009. Retrieved 01-29-2009.
  5. ^ a b c Henry F. Kletzing, et al. Progress of a Race, J. L. Nichols., 1903. pp. 520.
  6. ^ Scott Trafton, Egypt Land, Duke University Press, 2004, pp 269. ISBN 0-8223-3362-7, ISBN 978-0-8223-3362-3
  7. ^ a b Adelaide M. Cromwell, Martin Kilson, Apropos of Africa: Sentiments of Negro American Leaders on Africa from the 1800s to the 1950s, Routledge, 1969, pp 116.ISBN 0714617571, ISBN 978-0-7146-1757-2
  8. ^ Brown’s Early African-American Alumni, Brown University Library
  9. ^ Diarra Guthrie et al. Timeline of Third World Student History at Brown University Archived 2005-03-24 at the Wayback Machine., Brown University
  10. ^ a b Rev. Rodger B. Murchison, Housing project bears name of great Augustan, Augusta Chronicle, February 08, 2009. Retrieved 02-25-2009.
  11. ^ Leroy Davis, A Clashing of the Soul, University of Georgia Press, 1998, pp 33. ISBN 0-8203-1987-2, ISBN 978-0-8203-1987-2
  12. ^ Stephanie Toone Neighbors now scattered about, Augusta Chronicle, January 1, 2009. Retrieved 01-28-2009