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Joseph C. Corbin
On this date, we celebrate the birth of Joseph Corbin, born in 1833. He was a Black teacher, editor, and the highest-ranking Black official in Arkansas during Reconstruction.
He was born in Chillicothe, Ohio, and since Blacks were excluded from public schools, his parents educated him at fee-paying institutions in the area. He went to Ohio University at Athens and graduated from that institution in 1853. To finish paying for his education, he got a job clearinghouse clerk at the Bank of the Ohio Valley, Cincinnati. About this time, he received the degrees of A.M. and PhD. from his Alma Mater.
In 1872, he went to Arkansas, worked briefly as a reporter for the Little Rock Arkansas Republican, and was elected and served (1873-1874) as superintendent of education. He was the founder and president of Branch Normal College, the first African American institution of higher education in Arkansas.
Corbin also taught in Missouri in 1874 but returned to the Razorback state to become principal of Branch Normal College (now the University of Arkansas Pine Bluff) from 1875 to 1902. All the institution buildings were erected during this time, and a library, physical apparatus, and machinery were purchased. The contract for the main building of the university was also let, and the building was erected while he held the office of the state superintendent.
He was a mathematician and contributed many articles to mathematical journals. He was also well acquainted with six or eight foreign languages. He held numerous teachers' institutes in Arkansas and Oklahoma. He was also an accomplished musician and a performer of several instruments.
He was also the principal of the Merrill Public School, Pine Bluff, AR. On September 11, 1866, he married Mary J. Ward, a native of Kentucky, in Cincinnati. They had six children, but only two survived.
He was a 33d degree Mason was for 25 years secretary of the colored Freemasons of Arkansas, and served one term as Grand Master. Joseph C. Corbin died in Pine Bluff in 1911.
Black Leaders of the Nineteenth Century.
Edited by Leon Litwack and August Meier
Copyright 1998, University if Illinois Press