Joseph Corbin was a prominent black teacher, editor and one of the highest-ranking Black officials in Arkansas Reconstruction.
Corbin was born in Chillicothe, Ohio and because blacks were not allowed to attend public schools, his parents educated him at fee-paying institutions.
He attended Ohio University at Athens where he graduated in 1853. He went on to receive an A. M. and Ph.D. degree from the university as well. Helping to pay for his education he worked as a clearinghouse clerk in at the Bank of Ohio Valley, in Cincinnati.
On September 11, 1866, Corbin married Mary J. Ward, a Kentucky native, in Cincinnati. They had six children, two of whom lived to adulthood. In 1872, the family moved to Little Rock (Pulaski County), where Corbin worked as a reporter for the Arkansas Republican and later as a chief clerk in the Little Rock Post Office.
By the mid-1870s, Corbin was serving as Arkansas’s superintendent of public instruction and, by virtue of holding that office, was president of the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees.
He later taught mathematics, according to the best available evidence, for two years at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri, beginning in the fall of 1874. Corbin had worked on legislation to create a college in Arkansas for black students.
Corbin was able to speak and read Greek, Latin, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Hebrew, and Danish. He wrote numerous articles on mathematics and also constructed mathematical puzzles. Corbin died on January 9, 1911, in Pine Bluff.