Florida and the Colored Conventions Movement
Florida Firsts and Black Reconstruction Political Formations
Thomas V.R. Gibbs: Established Florida’s First Public Historically Black College
Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) was founded on October 3rd, 1887. Its founder, Thomas Van Renssaler Gibbs’ House Bill 133, which established a white state normal school in Gainesville, and a Black normal school originally planned for Jacksonville, laid the foundation for the founding of FAMU, with former abolitionist and lawyer Thomas DeSaille Tucker as the first president. Although Thomas Gibbs’ father, former Secretary of State and Superintendent of Public Instruction, died in 1874, the younger Gibbs continued the legacy of Gibbs “Florida Firsts” by authoring the legislation that founded what became FAMU. Thomas Van Renssaler Gibbs was raised in a Colored Conventions Movement home, and like his cousin Ida Alexander Gibbs, and a number of his other relatives, he was educated at Oberlin College and Howard University. Both Oberlin and Howard were integral institutions for the delegate’s intellectual training, and their children and extended families as well. Florida A&M University should also be included in the conversation about the Colored Conventions Movement and institution building.1
- New York Freeman (New York, New York), April 11, 1885: 1. Readex: America’s Historical Newspapers.