Jacob C. White, Jr. (1836-1902)
Jacob Clement White, Jr. was born to Jacob C. White, Sr., a barber, physician, and cemetery owner, and Elizabeth White, a seamstress. Born in 1836, White had seven siblings and two were Institute graduates: Martin M. White (b. 1841) and Joseph S. White (b. 1843). White’s father attained significant wealth through his various business endeavors, which placed the White family within the African-American elite. White received the finest education afforded to African-American children at the period and had contact with African-American leaders such as William Whipper and Robert Purvis. By age 18, White had already published two articles discussing the need to boycott slave produced goods and promoting the values of temperance. In 1852, White began his studies at the Institute for Colored Youth where he quickly excelled. The Board of Managers’ noted that White’s character as a student was “good always.” In fact, when Pennsylvania Governor James Pollock visited the Institute on May 24, 1855, White was chosen to address the governor. White used the address to challenge African-Americans’ inferior status. White also noted to the governor that,
We are glad, therefore, that in the midst of your numerous engagements, your Excellency has given us an opportunity to present ourselves before you, that you may see that though not recognized in the political arrangements of the Commonwealth, we are nevertheless preparing ourselves usefully for a future day, when citizenship in our country will be based on manhood and not on color.
On May 6, 1857, White was the Institute’s lone graduate and accepted a teaching position at the Preparatory School in the Institute. White taught at the Institute with “good success” for seven years until he was named principal of the Roberts Vaux Consolidated School, a public school, in 1864. White was replaced at the Institute by Class of 1862 graduate John Quincy Allen. When White took over at Vaux, the school met in a basement and had an enrollment of only 49 students. White went about reforming the school by moving into a new building and enrollment rose to 101 boys and 64 girls. He would remain principal at Vaux for 32 years until his retirement in 1896.
Besides teaching, White was known for his organizational skills. As a result, White held leadership positions in numerous African-American organizations. In particular, White was: president of the Banneker Institute, secretary of the Pennsylvania Equal Rights League, committee member of The Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery, president of the Frederick Douglass Memorial Hospital and Training School, secretary for the Pythian Baseball Club, and president of the Alumni Association of the Institute for Colored Youth. In addition, White and his friend, Octavius V. Catto, offered a regiment and traveled to Harrisburg in 1863 during the midst of the invasion crisis. Following Catto’s death in 1871, White became the preeminent statesmen for Philadelphia’s African-American community. Indeed, W.E.B. DuBois consulted White when working on his classic monograph, The Philadelphia Negro.
White married Caroline E. White in the 1870s and would remain active until his death on November 11, 1902 at age 66. He was buried at Merion Cemetery.
“United States Census, 1860,” index, FamilySearch, Jacob C White in household of Jacob C White, 1st Div 12th Ward Philadelphia City, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States, citing “1860 U.S. Federal Census - Population,” Fold3.com, p. 125, household ID 886, NARA microfilm publication M653, FHL microfilm 805162; Murray Dubin and Daniel Biddle, Tasting Freedom: Octavius Catto and the Battle for Equality in Civil War America, Philadelphia, 2010; Objects of the Institute for Colored Youth, with a list of the officers and students, and the annual report of the Board of Managers, for the year 1859, Philadelphia, 1859; Objects of the Institute for Colored Youth, with a list of the officers and students, and the annual report of the Board of Managers, for the year 1860, Philadelphia, 1860; Objects of the Institute for Colored Youth, with a list of the officers and students, and the annual report of the Board of Managers, for the year 1864, Philadelphia, 1864; Harry Silcox, Philadelphia Negro Educator: Jacob C. White, Jr. 1837-1902, PMHB, vol. 97, no. 1; “Banneker Institute of Philadelphia,” The Christian Recorder, January 23, 1863; “Pennsylvania State Equal Rights Convention,” The Christian Recorder, June 10, 1865; “The Anti-Slavery Society,” The Christian Recorder, January 5, 1888; “Notes and Comments,” The Christian Recorder, February 4, 1897.