Isabella Gibbons learned to read while enslaved by a University of Virginia professor and later educated hundreds of African Americans as a teacher in the freedmen's schools and public schools of Charlottesville. The University later named Gibbons House in honor of her and her husband.
Backstory and Context
With the end of the Civil War, formerly enslaved men, women, and children quickly took advantage of the ability to gain an education, and Gibbons established a school for freed people in Charlottesville. A few months later she became an assistant to Anna Gardner, a representative of the New England Freedmen's Aid Society, who came to Charlottesville late in 1865 to open a free school. Gibbons attended Gardner's school while also assisting her and earned a diploma in 1867. An esteemed teacher at one of the society's schools, Gibbons joined the newly established public school system in 1870 and taught in the city's segregated schools for more than fifteen years. She and her husband, a Baptist minister, acquired property and were highly respected members of Charlottesville's African American community.
In 2015, the University of Virginia named its newest dormitory Gibbons House in recognition of the accomplishments of Isabella Gibbons and William Gibbons.
Reprinted by permission of the Library of Virginia.