John Stewart Rock, Black Educator Hall Of Fame Member

Every day this month, the Center for Black Educator Development, in partnership with and Citizen Ed, will highlight a Black Educator Hall of Famer. But, don’t forget, e’ry month is Black History MonthFebruary is just the Blackest.

Today, our featured Black Educator Hall of Fame Member is John Stewart Rock.

New Jersey’s own, John S. Rock was born on October 13, 1825 in Salem, New Jersey to Black parents who were free. He attended New Jersey public schools, supported by his parents, and was one of the few Black children complete grammar school. At the age of 19, Rock began teaching in schools from 1844-1848.

Rock not only received praise from other veteran teachers for his abilities in the classroom, but he impressed two local Salem physicians so much that they let him study from their books and use their libraries for 8 hours daily. He would apprentice with these doctors, which grew his interest in medicine.

From there, Rock decided to enrolled in Medical School. After repeated attempts, he was finally accepted where he took up dentistry. Even while attending medical school, Rock continued to teach; teaching Black students at night school. He taught 6 hours a day while giving private lessons for two more hours. In 1852, Rock graduated from American Medical College in Philadelphia becoming one of the first African Americans to attain a degree in medicine. 

At the age of 27, he had established himself as a talented and well-respected teacher, dentist, and physician and one of the first African American dentist in the country.

From Philadelphia, Rock moved to Boston, MA to serve formerly enslaved escapees. He was called upon by abolitionist to establish a practice there. But also, Rock was recruited as an abolitionist, where he became a speaker on behalf of the cause. He both spoke out against enslavement and called for Black people to give back to each other, in support of one another.

Rock continued his work on behalf of Black people when the country was engaged in civil war. He obtaining his law degree and was admitted to the Massachusetts Bar. Rock helped organize the Massachusetts 54th regiment—the first Black unit in the Union Army. Rock also advocated against Lincoln colonialization plan to Haiti while joining with Frederick Douglass to support the idea that the United States was the home of Black people. In 1965, Rock became the first Black person to be allowed to argue before United States Supreme Court.

Sadly, Rock died a year later in 1866. However, his 41 years of life is a testament, that what matters more than the length of time is what you do with the time you have. Rock devoted the years he had to advocate for Black people and he did so admirably. The impact of his work touched many and his example lives on.

John S. Rock; a member of the Black Educator Hall of Fame.

For more information on John S. Rock, visit the following site.


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