A new historical marker honoring Joseph Carter Corbin was unveiled on the Chillicothe campus of Ohio University. Corbin, was born to free Black parents in Chillicothe in 1833 and earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in art at Ohio University.
At the end of the Civil War, there were 111,000 former slaves in Arkansas and only five had attended school. Corbin moved to Arkansas in 1872 and became a leading advocate for African American higher education. In 1873, during the Reconstruction period, he was elected State Superintendent of Public Education.
Corbin founded the Branch Normal College in 1875 with seven students ranging in age from 9 to 15. The college awarded its first bachelor’s degree seven years later in 1882. Corbin led the school until 1902. He died in 1911.
Branch Normal College is now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.
For more on Corbin’s life see the new book Joseph Carter Corbin: Educator Extraordinaire and Founder of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff by Gladys Turner Finney (Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, 2017).