Wright was born on February 11, 1840 in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. When he was about six years old his parents removed to Montrose, Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania. He attended the district school during the winter months, working for the neighboring farmers the rest of the year. Having saved up a small sum of money he entered the Lancasterian University, at Ithaca, in New York State. After a thorough course of study there returned to the village where his parents resided, and entered the office of a law firm, where he read law for two years, supporting himself by teaching. He subsequently entered the office of Judge Collins, in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, with whom he read law for another year. Feeling himself qualified for the legal profession, he applied for admission to the Bar; but so great was the existing prejudice against African Americans that the Committee refused to examine him.
In April 1865, Wright was sent by the American Missionary Society to Beaufort, South Carolina, as a teacher and laborer among the freed slaves. He remained in Beaufort until the Civil Rights Act passed. Then he returned to Montrose, Pennsylvania, and demanded an examination. The Committee found him qualified, and recommended his admission to the Bar. He was admitted August 13, 1865, being the first African American admitted to practice law in Pennsylvania. In April, 1866, Wright was appointed by General Oliver Otis Howard, head of the Freedmen's Bureau, to be the legal adviser for the freedmen in Beaufort. In July 1868 he was elected to the Constitutional Convention of South Carolina. He was the convention vice-president and helped draft the judiciary section of the State Constitution, which remains today. Wright was soon afterward elected Senator from the county Beaufort. On February 1, 1870, he was elected to the South Carolina Supreme Court. He served for seven years and then entered into private practice in Charleston. He died in 1885.
Notes[edit | edit source]
References[edit | edit source]
- Hine, William C. (1999), "Wright, Jonathan Jasper", in Garraty, John A.; Carnes, Mark C., American National Biography, Oxford: Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-520635-5, OCLC 39182280 .
- Holt, Thomas (1977), Black over White: Negro Political Leadership in South Carolina during Reconstruction, Champaign, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, ISBN 0-252-00775-1, OCLC 2964308 .
- Picture and text from Harper's Weekly, March 5, 1870, p. 149.
- Oldenfield, J. R. (1989), "A High and Honorable Calling: Black Lawyers in South Carolina, 1868–1915", Journal of American Studies 23 (3): 395–406, doi:10.1017/S0021875800004047, ISSN 0021-8758, OCLC 22222229 .
- Rogers, George C., Jr. (1992), Generations of Lawyers: A History of the South Carolina Bar, Columbia, South Carolina: South Carolina Bar Foundation, ISBN 0945036019, OCLC 27192809 .
- Tindall, George B. (2003), South Carolina Negroes, 1877–1900, Columbia, South Carolina: University of South Carolina Press, ISBN 1-57003-494-X, OCLC 51151417 .
- Williamson, Joel (1965), After Slavery: The Negro in South Carolina during Reconstruction, 1861–1877, Chapel Hill, North Carolina: University of North Carolina Press, OCLC 335753 .
- Woody, R. H. (April 1933), "Jonathan Jasper Wright, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of South Carolina, 1870–77" (Requires subscription), The Journal of Negro History (The Journal of Negro History, Vol. 18, No. 2) 18 (2): 114–131, doi:10.2307/2714290, ISSN 0022-2992, OCLC 30061380, http://www.jstor.org/pss/2714290 .