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John Swett Rock: Dentist, Doctor, Lawyer, Abolitionist

John Swett Rock

John Swett Rock grew up in the 1830s in New Jersey. In an era when many black children were sent out to work for a living, his parents were committed to keeping him in school. He repaid them with a brilliant career, studying his way to certification as a dentist, doctor and lawyer.

At age 19, Rock became an apprentice to two doctors, poring over the medical books in their library every day. Even though he was highly qualified, he was refused admission to medical school. Undaunted, he threw himself into the study of dentistry and became certified in 1849.

Swett’s Philadelphia dental practice was a success, but he hadn’t given up on his original dream. He applied to medical school again, and this time succeeded in getting a degree in 1852.

Rock moved to Boston after medical school and practiced dentistry and medicine. He also got involved in the abolitionist movement and became known as a brilliant orator; his speeches were circulated in newspapers and books.

When Rock’s health declined, his doctors ordered him to cut back on work. He gave up his busy medical and dental practices and began studying law. After passing the bar exam, he used his legal training to continue the fight for justice. In 1865, one day after Congress formally abolished slavery, Rock was admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The doctors, dentists and nurses on our mobile clinics carry on Rock’s legacy by offering patients the highest-quality dental and medical care. Children’s Health Fund also advocates for policies to give low-income, minority and immigrant families fair and equal access to health care and education.

Want to help? Share a photo of the happy, healthy children in your life on Instagram or Twitter and tag your post #StartWithASmile. For every photo posted, Colgate-Palmolive will donate $1.00 to Children’s Health Fund. Now that’s something to smile about!