Josiah T. Walls, Interim Chair for the 1871 Southern States Convention of Colored Men and Florida delegate, was born on December 30, 1842 in slavery in Virginia. He was forced to labor for the Confederate army but was later captured by the Union Army in 1862 [1]He voluntarily joined the United States Colored Troops in 1863 and settled in Alachua County, Florida. Walls quickly ascended into a political career which made lasting impacts on the state of Florida. He served as a delegate to the 1868 state constitutional convention and was later elected to the Florida House of Representatives. He was then elected as State Senator for the Alachua and Levy County district from 1869 until 1870. The following year he was elected as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for the at-large district. He ultimately returned to state politics in 1876 [2]. 

While his political career ended in 1880, his investment in Black collective politics did not. He served as a Florida delegate in the Colored Conventions during and after his time as a politician. He was one of the nominees for Vice-President of the 1871 Southern States Convention of Colored Men and a member of the Committee on Organization, Committee on Outrages, and Committee on Address to the American People which demonstrated his skills as a politician, orator, and organizer. He introduced several resolutions during this convention, many of which involved education and civil rights issues [3]. Walls also served on the Committee on Platform at the 1884 State Conference of the Colored Men of Florida and was recommended to serve on the State Executive Committee [4].

Although still involved in the Colored Conventions, Walls did not pursue politics in his later years. He ran a farm in Alachua County until the freeze of 1894. Finally, he became the Farm Director at State Normal and Industrial College for Colored Students, the predecessor to Florida A&M University. He continued this position until his death on May 5, 1905 [5]

Explore Josiah T. Walls’s active participation in the Colored Conventions movement below:


[1] Klingman, Peter D. “Race and Faction in the Public Career of Florida’s Josiah T. Walls,” in Howard Rabinowitz, ed., Southern Black Leaders of the Reconstruction Era, Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1982, p. 59.

[2] Klingman, p. 73.

[3] Southern States Convention of Colored Men (1871 : Columbia, SC), “Proceedings of the Southern States Convention of Colored Men, held in Columbia, S.C., commencing October 18, ending October 25, 1871,”

[4] State Conference of the Colored Men of Florida (1884 : Gainesville, FL), “Proceedings of the State Conference of the colored men of Florida, held at Gainesville, February 5, 1884,”

[5] Klingman, p. 75.


Written by: Rachel Nelson for ENGL/HIST 677, taught by P. Gabrielle Foreman, University of Delaware, Spring 2019.

Edited by P. Gabrielle Foreman.

Acknowledgements: Samantha de Vera and Michelle Byrnes for further edits, visualization contributions, and technical assistance.